Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story
(September 16, 2009) From October 3 through November 5, Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) will present "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story," a series of five, free public programs about the Federal Writers' Project (FWP), celebrating the 75th anniversary of this New Deal work relief program. "Soul of a People" will engage a wide audience in scholar-led discussions about the history, legacy and impact of the FWP.
The programs will address the local and national impact of the FWP. Come explore Drums and Shadows, an important work of local African American history and culture produced by the Savannah Unit of the FWP. Hear what Georgians said about the Great Depression through American Life Histories, oral histories collected by the FWP. Read and discuss Richard Wright, a FWP writer important to American literary history. The presentation on Wright will focus on his works 12 Million Black Voices and Uncle Tom's Children. The final program will screen a documentary film on the Federal Writers' Project, Soul of a People: Writing America's Story, including a scholar-led discussion of the film.
Savannah is one of 30 cities selected to participate in the "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story" program series. The series is sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office, and has received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Lane Library at Armstrong Atlantic State University partnered with Live Oak Public Libraries and June Hopkins, head of AASU's History Department to plan Savannah's grant project. The Telfair Museum of Art, the Georgia Historical Society and the Learning Center at Senior Citizens Inc. served as community partners for Savannah's "Soul of a People" programming.
To kick off the series, the Live Oak Public Libraries will host a community-wide celebration at the Bull Street Branch on Saturday, October 3 from 1-5 p.m. The program will include music by balladeer Jamie Keena, a talk by Hopkins on the FWP and the New Deal era, dramatic readings from FWP authors, and displays evocative of American life in the 1930s. On view will be a traveling exhibit about the FWP in Savannah, featuring images from the collections of the Georgia Historical Society. The full program follows:
Saturday, October 3
A kick-off celebration depicting life in Savannah during the New Deal Era
1-5 p.m. at the Bull Street Branch of Live Oak Public Libraries, 2002 Bull Street.
The afternoon gala will kick off a series of five, grant-sponsored programs entitled "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story." The series will explore the cultural contributions of Federal Writers' Project at the 75th anniversary of its founding. Part of the Works Progress Administration, the FWP provided work relief to writers and was active from 1935 to 1943.
1:30 p.m. Opening of the Soul of a People Series. AASU historian June Hopkins will deliver an address that sets the stage for New Deal era and the Federal Writers' Project.
2 p.m. Michael Price, AASU professor of history, introduces the American Life Histories including a reading from an oral history about work-life in 1930s Georgia.
2:30 p.m. Dramatic readings from the Slave Narratives, introduced by Elizabeth Desnoyers-Colas, AASU assistant professor of speech/communication.
3 p.m. Balladeer Jamie Keena performs and discusses popular music during the 1930s.
3:30 p.m. Kalenda Eaton, AASU assistant professor of English, will read from "Fire and Cloud," the short story which won Richard Wright first prize in a Story Magazine's competition for FWP authors and early recognition.
4 p.m. Barbara Fertig, AASU professor of history speaks on "The Writer's Project gives Folklore a proper home."
4:30 p.m. Jamie Keena performs and discusses popular music during the 1930s.
Saturday, October 10
Drums and Shadows
3-5 p.m. at the Carnegie Branch of Live Oak Public Libraries, 537 E. Henry Street.
Explore the stories and photographs of Coastal Georgia's long-standing African American communities with folklorist and AASU historian Barbara Fertig and community members.
Wednesday, October 14
Richard Wright and Twelve Million Black Voices.
6:30 p.m. at the Armstrong Center, 13040 Abercorn Street.
Kalenda Eaton, AASU assistant professor of English, will discuss Wright and the FWP, focusing on his work Twelve Million Black Voices. Wright's account of the African American experience was illustrated with Depression-era photographs.
Wednesday, October 21
Symposium on American Life Histories
9:30 a.m. at the Armstrong Center, 13040 Abercorn Street.
Transcripts of the American Life Histories, oral history interviews gathered by the FWP, are available online from the Library of Congress' digital collections. Michael Price, AASU professor of history and Ella Howard, AASU assistant professor of history, will examine some of the Georgia life histories that deal with the theme of work during the Great Depression.
Thursday, November 5
Soul of a People: Voices from the Writers' Project
6 p.m. Neises Auditorium of Jepson Center, Telfair Museum of Art.
Hopkins will sum up the impact of the Federal Writers' Project on the New Deal era America and discuss its implications for the present day. Her presentation will include a screening of new documentary about the FWP called Soul of a People.
Soul of a People: Writing America's Story is a major documentary television program about the Federal Writers' Project produced by Spark Media, Washington, D.C., and broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel HD. Soul of a People programs in libraries are sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life.