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Soul of a People: Writing America's Story


American Library Association


National Endowment for the HumanitiesSmithsonian Channel
Spark Media
St. Cloud State University Library

SCSU Logo

The St. Cloud State University library and Learning Resources & Technology Services is pleased to announce "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story," a series of programs supporting the national broadcast of a documentary television program about the Federal Writers' Project, part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative to get people back to work after the Depression.

Federal Writer's Project Display

Federal Writers' Project display, New York Times National Book Fair, 1937. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.


"Soul of a People" was produced by Spark Media, a Washington, D.C.-based production and outreach company specializing in issues of social change. It is being broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel HD (check local listings or visit www.SmithsonianChannel.com). "Soul of a People" programs are sponsored by the American Library Association and supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life.

The St. Cloud State University library is presenting a number of programs this fall which will look closely at the unique accomplishments of the Federal Writers' Project. A number of writers who toiled in FWP offices around the country later became prominent literary figures in the U.S., among them Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel, Eudora Welty and Richard Wright.

We would like to invite you to attend these exciting "Soul of a People" programs about our nation's history and literary heritage. The first program in the series is a panel discussion about the Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers' Project and Central MN to take place 10 a.m. - noon, Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud.

See below for more events and program information. We hope you can join us as we look back at a unique cultural experiment designed to get a nation back on its feet after a disastrous Depression.

Events and Programming

 

1930s-themed
Community Celebration!

10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday, October 12
St. Cloud Public Library

We invite you to travel back to the 1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA was struggling to get people back to work.

Event goers of all ages will have the chance to see and experience 1930s cultural opportunities such as old time radio shows, model trains, the Smithsonian documentary Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story, quilts and textiles, canned goods and photos of WPA sites in Central Minnesota. Local historians and enthusiasts will be around throughout the day to interact with viewers and answer questions about the many exhibits.

Several presentations will be offered:

  • 10:30 a.m., Children’s 1930s storytime
  • 11 a.m., “Gandydancers, Trains and Railroad Culture of the 1930s”

    Presenters from the S.T.A.R.A.I.L. (St. Cloud Area Rail Legacy Museum) group will share artifacts, information and stories about how trains were used in the 1930s and talk about “Hobo” culture during the Great Depression.

  • Noon, “America Eats! Foodways of the Great Depression”
    What was is like to barter for food because you had no money to buy what you like? What did people eat before microwaves and frozen food were invented? When were vitamins discovered? How did people know what to eat before MyPyramid was here? Jayne Byrne, associate professor of Nutrition at CSB/SJU will discuss what people in Minnesota ate during the 1930’s, when there were no interstate highways to bring in food from the west and south, and most people had to “make do” with what they could find close to home.
  • 2 p.m., “Stories from the Civilian Conservation Corp”
    Earhart Stich will share his experiences in the Civilian Conservation Corp., a program designed to conserve our natural resources and created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program. Steve Hennes of the Whitney Senior Center will also share some stories related to the WPA.
  • 3 p.m., Quilting and textiles of the 1930s discussion
    Shirley Krantz, a quilt-making teacher and employee at Gruber’s Quilt Shop in St. Cloud, will lead a discussion about textiles of the 1930s. Quilts, embroideries, crochets, patterns and other popular customs will be reflected upon.
The 1930s Community Celebration is free and open to the public!

  • “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” temporary exhibit  
    September 11 - 25, Miller Center lobby display case
    In recognition of “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story,” the Miller Center lobby display case features an exhibit of books and materials recognizing the Federal Writers’ Project and the 1930s.
  • Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers' Project and Central Minnesota
    Wednesday, September 16, 10 a.m. - Noon
    Stearns History Museum

    Stearns History MuseumPresentations and panel discussions on "Walls, Murals, and Buildings: The WPA Legacy in Central Minnesota," "The New Deal and WPA Arts Projects in Minnesota," and "The Federal Writers' Project with a Spotlight on Minnesota Writer, Meridel LeSuer." Panelists include historic preservationist and SCSU professor emeritus Dr. William Morgan; art historian Mr. Tom O'Sullivan; SCSU American Literature professor Dr. Constance Perry.

  • Discussion of the documentary "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story"
    Thursday, September 24, 12:30 - 2 p.m.
    St. Cloud State University, Miller Center 122 (Auditorium)

    Excerpts from and discussion of the Smithsonian Channel documentary "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story" led by American Literature professor Dr. Constance Perry.

  • Life Histories from the Great Depression Era
    Wednesday, September 30, 1 - 2:15 p.m.
    St. Cloud State University, Education Building A226

    During the Great Depression, the Federal Writers' Project employed destitute writers to gather American folklore (songs, stories, customs) and citizen testimonials about living through hard times. These thousands of pages of writing were never published; however, the Library of Congress has digitized the work. This session will include reading and discussion of some of these Life Histories, led by American Literature professor Dr. Constance Perry.

  • "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story" full documentary screening
    Thursday, October 1, 7 - 9 p.m.
    St. Cloud State University, Miller Center 122 (Auditorium)

    Join us for an enlightening evening and a chance to win a copy of the documentary, related books and more.

  • A Woman's Perspective on the Federal Writers' Project: Minnesota Author Meridel Le Sueur
    Monday, October 5, 1 - 2:15 p.m.
    St. Cloud State University, Education Building A226

    Presentation and discussion of Minnesota writer Meridel Le Sueur's novel, The Girl, set in St. Paul during the Great Depresssion, led by American Literature professor Dr. Constance Perry.

  • St. Cloud Public LibrarySoul of a People Community Celebration
    Monday, October 12, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    St. Cloud Public Library

    Soul of a People community celebration including a 1930s cultural showcase, Life Histories presentations and K-12 activities.

Parking: For events taking place at St. Cloud State University, visit www.stcloudstate.edu/parking for visitor parking information.

Additional Resources

Women St. Paul

Left: Women in front of rooming house, St. Paul, Minn., 1939. Courtesy of Library of Congress. Right: WPA poster, 1936-41. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

WPA Poster

Contact Information

Untitled Document