After the Day of Infamy
About the Collection


In 1941, fieldworkers for the Library of Congress's Radio Research Project made documentary recordings of Americans from around the country who described their lives, sang their songs, and told the stories of their own regions. The project's staff believed that most commercial radio broadcasts of the day were dominated by programs created in the great urban centers and that these programs failed to reflect regional culture, local talent, and, in particular, the voices of the people speaking in their own words. The project included recordings from farmers, merchants, day laborers, and bankers from the Eastern Shore of Maryland; a traveling carnival set
Pete Seeger playing banjo,
1948. Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division-
New York World Telegram
and Sun Newspaper Collection.
Photograph by Mel Kirkwood.
Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-124417.
up near Washington, D.C.; an Okie migrant labor camp in southern California; and a folk festival in Asheville, North Carolina. Alan Lomax, head of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture), was serving as folklore consultant for the project. On December 8, 1941, the day following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lomax sent a telegram to fieldworkers in ten different localities around the United States, asking them to collect "man-on-the-street" reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war by the United States. This request resulted in approximately four and one half hours of recordings that were used to create a fifteen-minute radio program for the Mutual Broadcasting System.

A second set of recordings, in which the interviewees were asked to address their thoughts and opinions on the attack and the declaration of war directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was made under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Management in January and February 1942. These recordings total approximately seven and one half hours and were also used to create a radio program, entitled "Dear Mr. President," which was broadcast in May 1942. Pete Seeger and Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) recorded original songs for the "Dear Mr. President" interviews. Included in this presentation are Pete Seeger's "Dear Mr. President" and "The Martins and Coys."

The online presentation, After the Day of Infamy: "Man-on-the-Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor consists of more than two hundred interviews recorded from December 1941 to February 1942. In most cases, the recordings were digitized by Library of Congress staff directly from the discs on which they were originally recorded. The only editing redacted interviewee names from several recordings and removed Leadbelly's two songs for which permissions have not yet been received. Otherwise, the recordings are presented as they were originally recorded.

Recording Series

This presentation consists of two different sets of recordings. "Man-on-the Street," AFS 6357-6375; 6453-6454, includes interviews conducted December 8-10, 1941. "Dear Mr. President," AFS 6397-6452; 6455-6463, includes interviews conducted January-February 1942.

After the Day of Infamy