Library outreach program introduces history of Federal Writers' Project
May 5, 2009 4:45 PM | Print

The National Endowment for the Humanities launched "Soul of a People" to acquaint the public with the Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project.

The Wichita State University Libraries received one of 30 $2,500 grants for the "Soul of a People" library project.

WSU Libraries will use the grant to present a series of five programs in May and June that examine the WPA, the Federal Writers' Project and Depression-era Kansas. WSU Libraries will partner with the Wichita Public Library (Rockwell Branch) and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum to host the local events.

The event kickoff will be held Tuesday, May 12.

The programs include:

Celebrating America's Story: The Cultural Legacy of the Great Depression
7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 12 – WSU Libraries

A presentation of sights and sounds from the 1930s, will include excerpts from the documentary "Soul of a People," and music, photographs and films evoking the tone and texture of the period.

Presenter: Lorraine Madway, curator of special collections and university archivist, WSU Libraries.

Writing America's Story: The Federal and Kansas Writers' Projects
7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21 – WSU Libraries

A panel discussion will be held on the impact of the Great Depression in Kansas and the work of the federal and Kansas writers' projects.

Panelists: Craig Miner and Jay Price, department of history, WSU, and Lorraine Madway, curator of special collections and university archivist, WSU.

Telling America's Story: Oral Histories of the Great Depression
7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2 — WSU Libraries

Interpretive readings and a group discussion examining selected oral histories from the Writers' Project, "American Life Histories," is accessible at the Library of Congress Web site

Presenters: Jay Price, department of history, WSU, and Lorraine Madway, curator of special collections and university archivist, WSU Libraries.

One Writer's Stories: Discussing Selected Short Stories of John Cheever
7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 — Wichita Public Library, Rockwell Branch

A group discussion will focus on the work of a writer who contributed to the Writers' Project and later became an important figure in American literary history. Led by Lorraine Madway, curator of special collections and university archivist, WSU Libraries.

Finding the Sunny Side of the Street: Life in 1930s Wichita
2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 28 – Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum

A celebration will create a 1930s atmosphere with music, displays, videos and refreshments.

During the Great Depression, out-of-work writers were paid by the WPA to write on topics such as state and regional travel guides, regional cultural studies and oral history interviews. The goal of "Soul of a People" is to inform the public about the FWP and the start that it gave many aspiring authors in regions impacted by the Great Depression.

Nan Myers, project administrator, and Lorraine Madway, project scholar, secured the grant from the NEH.

"We are excited that we were one of only 30 libraries nationwide chosen to participate," Myers said. "There are several noted authors who got their start from the FWP, like Ralph Ellison, Studs Terkel, Saul Bellow and Zora Neale Hurston."

The WSU Libraries contains the largest collection in Kansas of materials compiled by WPA researchers.

For more information about the WSU Libraries programs, call (316) 978-5130 or or view the event Web site at

"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. It will be broadcast in Fall 2009 on the Smithsonian Channel HD.

"Soul of a People" programs in libraries are sponsored by the American Library Association with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life.

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Created on May 5, 2009 4:45 PM; Last modified on May 7, 2009 2:28 PM
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