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New Deal Exhibit: Federal Writing Project

An Online Catalog for the Exhibit at Brooklyn College

The Federal Writing Project

The WPA also created a program to hire unemployed writers. Individuals working for the Federal Writing Project (FWP) created the Index of American Design, which documented the regional history of American folk arts from colonial times to the end of the 19th century. Writers working for the Historical Records Survey (HRS) cataloged historically significant records of state, county, and local archives. Part of the FWP writers’ work was to write travel guides, which were published for the existing 48 states. The writers for the FWP sought folklore and traditional ballads, and they recorded oral histories, including those documenting former African American slaves working in the 1800s.

Some of the writers to work on these projects later became well-known authors such as Richard Wright, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, and Saul Bellow.

Federal Writing Project Gallery

Poster publicizing “American Guide Week” Nov. 10–16 [1941].

Courtesy of Library of Congress

New York City, American Guide Series.

Courtesy of Library of Congress 

Federal Writers’ Project display, New York Times National Book Fair, 1937.

Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration