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Federal Writers' Project collection

Identifier: MS-1991-05
  • No requestable containers

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

Topics covered include religion and social life, customs and celebrations, civil rights and legal status, language and literature, education, folklore, music, and song. Other subjects include occupations, labor, and the Reconstruction era. Highlights of the collection include interviews with formerly enslaved African Americans in Florida conducted by field workers between 1935 and 1939.


  • Created: 1933-1948
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1933-1938
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1991


Biographical or Historical Information

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the New Deal program. The primary function of the WPA was to create jobs for the millions of Americans unemployed as a result of the Great Depression. Through a series of projects called Federal One, the WPA became the largest federal relief program, employing nearly one-third of the nation’s jobless. WPA Projects included the Federal Arts Project, Federal Music Project, Federal Theater Project, and the Federal Writers’ Project.

Originally intended for publication, the materials in this collection were generated by the Federal Writers’ Project in an effort to document Florida folk life and culture. The oral history interviews, folktales, songs, and other ethnographic materials gathered by fieldworkers provide first-hand accounts of daily life in Florida during the Civil War era. Many of these accounts recorded the lives and experiences of African American residents who had prevously been enslaved in Florida and other southern states.


1.88 Linear Feet

5 boxes

Language of Materials



The Federal Writers Project consists of selected records used to develop books and pamplets for the American Guide Series. The materials in this collection primarily document the experiences and lives of African Americans, many of whom had previously been enslaved, and includes interviews, typescripts, and other materials photocopied from a collection at the Florida Historical Society.

Arrangement Note

Alphabetically by subject and type of material.

Custodial History

The Federal Writers' Project collection, previously referred to as the "Florida Negro Papers," is the property of the Florida Historical Society. In 1991, the Society gave permission to the USF Libraries Special Collections Department to photocopy the collection for the purpose of making it available to researchers.

Related Materials

Florida Folklife collection, Florida State Archives, Florida Department of State, Tallahassee, Florida.

Narratives of the Formerly Enslaved, USF Libraries Digital Collection

Stetson Kennedy collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida

Zora Neale Hurston papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Conditions Governing Use

The Florida Historical Society is the rightful owner of the original materials represented in this collection and retains its rights regarding publishing and credit ownership.

Other Descriptive Information


Processing Information


Processing Information

This collection was reevaluated in 2021 to reflect Special Collections' conscious editing initiatives. After conducting the assessment, Special Collections personnel reprocessed and renamed the collection to more effectively reflect the content contained therein.

Federal Writers' Project collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USF Libraries - Special Collections Repository

4202 East Fowler Ave.
Tampa FL 33620-5400 US