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Supporting the Arts through the WPA

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Supporting the Arts through the WPA

Short | 01:32

One of the greatest experiments in public art gave voice and vision to American artists, authors and musicians.

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In the grip of the Great Depression, WPA writers searched for America and discovered the Soul of a People. This show explores one of the most controversial public assistance programs of its time and shows nothing less than the creation of America's first ever self-portrait.


  • Ralph Ellison
  • Anzia Yezierska
  • Vardis Fisher
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Richard Wright
  • John Cheever
  • Jim Thompson
  • Ralph Ellison

    Ralph Ellison

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    Born in Oklahoma City, Ralph Ellison traveled to Harlem during the Great Depression, when he no longer had the money to pay tuition for music studies at the Tuskegee Institute. After spending his first nights on a park bench, Ellison met Richard Wright, who took the young man under his wing and got him a job on the Writers' Project, conducting interviews. It was during his years on the Project that he typed the words, "I am an Invisible Man," which begin his masterpiece, Invisible Man. Unlike other writers who viewed their time on the WPA with shame, Ellison was always open about what the Writers' Project had done for him. He continued writing and teaching until his death in 1994. His second novel remained unfinished at his death and was published as Juneteenth in 1999.
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