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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.


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

    Jim Thompson

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    One of the great pulp writers of American literature, Jim Thompson was the son of the sheriff of Anadarko, in Oklahoma. He left the University of Nebraska without graduating and when he couldn't sustain his family as a crime writer, he signed on to the Oklahoma Writers' Project, where he rose quickly to become state editor. The dark stories he uncovered during his years on the Project influenced his hardboiled novels, such as The Killer Inside Me and Savage Night. Thompson wrote over thirty novels in his lifetime, though he received more critical acclaim than general popularity. For years, he also eked out a living as a screenwriter in Los Angeles, working with Stanley Kubrick on The Killing and Paths of Glory. Thompson once told his wife, "Just you wait, I'll become famous after I'm dead about ten years." About ten years after his death in 1977, most of his works were republished and became bestsellers. Several, such as The Getaway and The Grifters, were adapted into successful Hollywood films.
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