"Voices from the Dust Bowl" -- Related Resources

In American Memory:

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties. The WPA California Folk Music Project is a multi-format ethnographic field collection that includes sound recordings, still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California. The collection comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians.

This elaborate New Deal project was organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell for the Northern California Work Projects Administration. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and cosponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), this undertaking was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-language folk music in one region of the United States.

Color Photographs from the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, ca. 1938-1944. These two collections consist of the color photographs produced by a pair of government photography units within the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Office of War Information (OWI) between 1939 and 1945. Roy Stryker led the FSA unit during its active years and played a key role in the OWI unit in 1942-43.

The 644 color photographs produced by the FSA are less well known and far less extensive than the unit's black-and-white photographs. The 965 color photographs from the OWI are color transparencies in sizes up to 4x5-inches. The photographs depicted life and culture in the U.S., with a focus on factories and women employees, railroads, aviation training, and other aspects of World War II mobilization.

For comparison, the black-and-white photographs in the FSA-OWI collection at the Library of Congress number about 160,000. A digital version of this collection is planned for release in 1998.

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states.

In the Archive of Folk Culture:

Resettlement Administration Collection: Field recordings of American folk music made by the Resettlement Administration, 1936-37. Probably the first government agency to promulgate folk music as a cohesive force in new farming communities was the RA established by executive order in April 1935. Between 1936 and 1937 Charles Seeger, technical assistant to the director of the Special Skills Division, sent Sidney Robertson, Margaret Valiant, and others into eastern and midwestern states to make field recordings for use in such government projects as training recreational leaders for rural settlements. The RA team recorded Lithuanian, Finnish, Serbian, Gaelic, Swedish, and American Indian music, and a substantial number of Appalachian and Ozark songs and dance tunes. Shortly after the RA was supplanted by the Farm Security Administration in September 1937, the 159 disc recordings (AFS 3,155-3,313) were transferred to the Library of Congress along with a checklist and brief field notes. The material has been duplicated on tape.

Other materials in the Archive of Folk Culture which pertain to the Dust Bowl experience or migrant workers include various Woody Guthrie recordings, interviews, and manuscripts (AFS 3407-3423; AFS 4507A-4508A; AFS 4491; and AFC 1991/003). In addition, there are recordings made by Robert Sonkin documenting the African American community of Gee's Bend, Alabama, where Farm Security Administration work was being carried out. These recordings were made in Gee's Bend and Palmerdale, Alabama, during the summer of 1941 (AFS 5035-5098).

Voices from the Dust Bowl