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The Beginning of the WPA

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The Beginning of the WPA

Short | 02:06

Nearly 8 million Americans were employed through the WPA. After years of being on relief, citizens now had the opportunity to pull themselves out of the mire of the Great Depression.

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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.


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

    Zora Neale Hurston

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    A skilled anthropologist and writer, Zora Neale Hurston was one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance. She had already written several novels, but when her publishing and research funding dried up in the Depression, she joined the Writers' Project in Florida. Hurston took the lead in mapping a field recording tour to gather Florida folklore and song - and also uncovered the darker side of Florida, including the stark story of modern-day slavery in Florida turpentine camps. Hurston's work on the Project informed her ambitious novel Moses, Man of the Mountain and plays such as Polk County. Hurston died penniless, and was buried in an unmarked grave in a segregated cemetery in Florida. She did not regain her popularity until after her death, when a new generation of readers, including authors like Alice Walker, rediscovered her work. Her best-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was named as one of the best novels of the century by Time Magazine, and became a television movie in 2005, produced by Oprah Winfrey and starring Halle Berry.
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