Zora Neale Hurston

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston.

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston.

Today we are highlighting Zora Neale Hurston and her contributions to the Federal Writers’ Project in Florida. Make sure to check out Hurston’s audio recordings below and the new Zora Neale Hurston podcast.

Zora Neale Hurston was an African-American novelist and accomplished anthropologist whose rich literary work has inspired generations of readers. By 1938, she had already published Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Mules and Men and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Despite her reputation as a writer, there exists another side to Hurston’s career. In 1938 and 1939, during the Great Depression, Hurston worked as a folklorist and contributor to the Florida division of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Through her work with the FWP, Hurston captured stories, songs, traditions and histories from African-Americans in small communities across Florida, whose stories often failed to make it into the histories of that time period.

The Works Progress Administration – after 1939, the Works Projects Administration – was a work-relief program created in 1935 by the Franklin Roosevelt administration. It had employed over 8.5 million people by its demise in 1943. One of its programs was the (FWP), which included a folklore section. The staff conducted fieldwork and recorded songs, traditions, and stories across the nation.

Gabriel Brown playing guitar as Rochelle French and Zora Neale Hurston listen - Eatonville, Florida.

Gabriel Brown playing guitar as Rochelle French and Zora Neale Hurston listen – Eatonville, Florida.

In 1939, Hurston went to a turpentine camp near Cross City in Dixie County, Florida, to find candidates for recording interviews, songs and life histories of interesting everyday people. Hurston’s essay, “Turpentine,” traced her travels through the pine forests with an African-American “woods rider” named John McFarlin. Her work on Florida’s turpentine camps is still considered authoritative. Back in Jacksonville, Hurston’s final major contribution to the Florida FWP was to arrange a recording session at the Clara White Mission. The African-American participants told stories and sang or chanted traditional music. Hurston also sang 18 songs herself, mostly work songs and folk songs.

“Dat Old Black Gal” is a railroad spiking song that Hurston learned near Miami from Max Ford, the singing liner on the construction crew. Workers would hammer the spikes securing the rails to their cross-ties in rhythm with the song.

Dat Old Black Gal

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Next is a juke song that Hurston learned on the East coast of Florida. She sings “Halimuhfack,” then describes her process for learning songs.

Halimuhfack

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Hurston sings “Let the Deal Go Down,” a gambling song she collected at the Bostwick turpentine still near Palatka, Florida. The men sang the song while playing the card game called George Skin, “the most favorite gambling game among the workers of the South.”

Let the Deal Go Down

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“Let’s Shake It,” is a track-lining chant that Hurston learned at a railroad camp in Callahan, Florida.

Let’s Shake It

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The track-lining rhythm, “Mule on the Mountain,” was the most widely-distributed work song in the United States. Zora Neale Hurston originally learned the song from George Thomas in Eatonville, Florida.

Mule on the Mountain

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The railroad lining rhythm, “Shove It Over,” which was generally distributed throughout Florida. Hurston learned the song from Charlie Jones on a railroad construction camp near Lakeland, Florida, in 1933.

Shove It Over

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“Wake Up Jacob,” was sung to wake up the workers in a big work camp. Hurston learned it at a sawmill in Polk County.

Wake Up Jacob

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For more information about Zora Neale Hurston:

Zora Neale Hurston, the WPA in Florida, and the Cross City Turpentine Camp (Educational Unit)

Zora Neale Hurston Podcast

October 12, 1864: Albert Chalker to his Sweetheart Martha

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

So far, most of our Civil War Voices posts have come from Floridian soldiers fighting or living as prisoners of war far outside the state. Today’s post brings us back to Florida itself to hear from a young private writing to his sweetheart back home.

Albert Chalker was born in South Carolina in 1843, and moved with his family to Clay County, Florida around 1852. In 1863, at the age of 19, Chalker enlisted in Company K of the Second Florida Cavalry. He spent much of his time stationed at Baldwin, Florida serving as a courier for General Joseph Finegan. The State Archives holds a collection (Collection M72-11) of twelve letters written between Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin during the Civil War, including this one:

 

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

Transcript:

Baldwin Florida
Oct 12th 1864
Miss Bardin

My Dear Mattie, Your most affectionate letter of the 6th inst. has been received and perused with the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I was very sorry to hear of your sad misfortune, but I hope by the time get this that you will be over that, and enjoying good health. My health is not good, but do not let that trouble you. I hope soon to recover, as I have very good attention.I have no news of interest to write you at the present time. Our duty is very heavy as there is but four Co’s of Cavalry here. We have been looking for the remainder of our Regiment some time. If it was all here our duty would be very light. We are getting plenty of corn and long forrige for our horses at the present time. As to ourselves we are faring rather bad. We get no meat except fresh beef and that in very small quantities. Corn meal we get a plenty of that. Syrup one pint to the week, etc. & so on.

I am very tired of fighting this way. I very often say hard things about our Confederacy and officers. I think if about half of the officers now in the army and in ware houses & ordinance stores was reduced to the rank that we would get along much better. It would be great incouragement to the soldiers. Without some great chang we will lose two thirds of our [page 2] Regiment before Christmas. There is great dissatisfaction among the men. If McClellan is elected it will not probably proove so disastrous. I long to see the dawning of peace. I hope that ere next April we will have what is wished a thousand times every moment. That is peace, when we can all return to our home and once more live in peace and contentment, where we can be with our friends and relatives. Oh Mattie, wer I with you I would be hapy. Please excuse a short letter. I will close with the hope of hearing from you soon. I Ever Remain

Your affectionate &
Devoted Lover,

Albert S. Chalker

When on my lonely watch at night
And naught to comfort me but the stars of light,
And weariness has lulled to rest
All other thoughts within my breast
Then I’ll think of thee.

A.S.C.

Chalker’s frustration with the war is palpable here. Although he admits nurturing a few hard feelings about the Confederacy, his tone aims more towards weariness with war in general. Apparently this sentiment was sufficient to induce some soldiers to leave their posts, as Chalker fears might happen to his own regiment. In other letters he shares more on the subject of desertion, which was an ongoing problem for the Confederates stationed in this area.

We also get a sense in this letter that Chalker is particularly eager to get back home so he can be with “Mattie.” The young soldier would soon get his wish. Albert Chalker and Martha Ann Bardin married in Middleburg in 1865 and had several children.

Check out the related resources below to learn more about Florida in the Civil War, and join us tomorrow for our next edition of Civil War Voices!

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

Related Resources in Print:

October 11, 1864: William McLeod Diary Entry

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

Today’s Civil War Voices entry takes us back to northwestern Georgia to check up on William McLeod of Manatee County. On October 8th, we learned that McLeod had been camping with his regiment near Cedar Town, GA en route to join Confederate General John Bell Hood’s army. Today he reports a little resistance from Union opponents in the area.

Note: McLeod often wrote in run-on sentences, combining several days of activity into each expression. As a result, today’s entry covers multiple days’ worth of material from the diary.

Pages 50-51 from the diary of William McLeod (Collection M97-20, State Archives of Florida).

Pages 50-51 from the diary of William McLeod (Collection M97-20, State Archives of Florida).

Transcript: [...] went to Cove Springs & camped their was a nice little town & we staid all night & on the 10 we left that camp & their was a rite smart frost & on the 9 was a cold frosty morning & we got to Tallapoosee river by 12 or 1 oclock but crossed Cellur creek in the morning & when we got to Tallapoosee river we rested a little while & then crossed over the river.

[right]

Oct

it was the Coosy river & went 3 or 4 miles & camped & staid all night & on the 11 we made a long march & camped after we crossed the armuchie river & the Yankees fired at us but done no damage & on the 12 we made a long march & got in 15 miles of dalton & camped & on the 13 we left our camps by daylight now to take dalton & we marched around in the rear of dalton [...]

 

McLeod’s unit was involved in the effort to impede Union General William T. Sherman’s progress through Georgia. Sherman would ultimately decide to leave a single corps of troops in Atlanta to maintain Union control while he swept across the state toward Savannah.

For more information about Florida and Floridians during the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, join us tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll be posting a letter from private Albert Symington Chalker of Clay County, Florida to his sweetheart Martha Bardin. Chalker shares his feelings about the war and his hopes for the future.

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

Related Resources in Print:

 

Glass Lantern Slides

Young women fishing with cane poles from a jetty
The old Gregory house before it was moved: Ocheesee Landing, Florida.
People walking through a forest

These hand-tinted glass lantern slides are from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Collection. The 53 slides in the collection show a variety of Florida’s natural features, including scenes of rivers and river banks, forests, nature trails, fishing, sand dunes, and swimming.

The image of the Gregory House went unidentified until it was recognized by a patron on our Florida Memory Flickr page. We were able to match the image with another in our collection and confirm that this was indeed the house in the slide.

The Gregory House, built in 1849 by Planter Jason Gregory, stood at Ochesee Landing across the river from the Torreya State Park. In 1935, the house was dismantled and moved to its present location in the park by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was developing the park.

The remaining 52 images have very little identifying information. However, they are a beautiful example of Florida landscapes depicted on glass lantern slides, ca. 1940s.

People on a Lakeshore

Glass lantern slide shows were popular both as home entertainment and as an accompaniment to speakers on the lecture circuit. They reached their popularity about 1900, but continued to be widely used until the 1930s when they were gradually replaced by the more convenient 35-milimeter slides.

Young women posing in swimsuits on sand dune

Related Resources

 

October 10, 1864: Robert Watson Diary Entry

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

It’s back to Savannah Harbor for today’s edition of Civil War Voices. Confederate sailor Robert Watson of Key West had a busy day aboard the C.S.S. Savannah:

Excerpt of Robert Watson's Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt of Robert Watson’s Diary (M76-139, State Archives of Florida).

Two interesting aspects of this diary entry stand out. First, Watson’s description of “scraping” and “caulking” allude to a critical part of maintaining wooden ships in this era. Ships with wooden plank decks used pine pitch and either cotton or hemp to caulk the spaces between planks and create a watertight seal. One coat of pitch was never enough, however. As the pitch became brittle and cracked over time as a result of the ship’s movements, it had to be replaced. As a consequence, one of the ongoing maintenance projects for a ship such as the Savannah was removing the old caulking with scrapers and putting down the new caulk.

Watson also alludes to the position of General William Tecumseh Sherman, who at this time had left a single corps of his army in Atlanta while he chased the forces of Confederate General John Bell Hood around northwestern Georgia. Watson’s assessment of Sherman’s predicament was a bit sanguine. In less than a month, Washington would consent to Sherman’s plan to leave Hood alone and begin marching to the Atlantic to take Savannah.

For more information about Florida and Floridians in the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll return to northwest Georgia to hear again from the diary of William McLeod.

 

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

Related Resources in Print:

October 9, 1864: Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

Today we return to the Union prisoner of war camp at Elmira, New York to check in on Wilbur Wightman Gramling. As the weather turns colder, his concerns about surviving the winter resurface:

Excerpt from Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary (M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt from Wilbur Wightman Gramling Diary (M88-70, State Archives of Florida).

Transcript: Sunday, Oct. 9, 1864. Had a light snow last night. Is cloudy and very cold today. I am quite unwell today. Have had a little fever all day. Wrote to Irvin today.

 

The “Irvin” Gramling refers to was his older brother Irvin Watson Gramling, who had enlisted along with Wilbur in Company K of the 5th Florida Infantry. Irvin had been captured in July 1863 while fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was detained briefly at Fort McHenry in Maryland before being sent to Fort Delaware, where he remained until the end of the war.

Battle flag of the 5th Florida Infantry, in which both Gramling brothers were members of Company K. The flag is now in the possession of the Museum of Florida History (photo date unknown).

Battle flag of the 5th Florida Infantry, in which both Gramling brothers were members of Company K. The flag is now in the possession of the Museum of Florida History (photo date unknown).

Wilbur mentions writing to Irvin or receiving letters from him frequently in his diary. Since both Gramling brothers were detained in camps far from home and apart from each other, this correspondence must have been heartening to receive. The original Wilbur Wightman Gramling diary later came under the ownership of Irvin’s family. Irvin’s grandson, Owen Irving Gramling, Jr., donated the original Gramling diary to Florida State University in 1971.

Check out the related resources below for more information about the Civil War in Florida, and come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices from Florida, when we’ll return to the Georgia coast to hear from Confederate sailor Robert Watson.

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

Related Resources in Print:

 

Celebrate Cookie Month (Just Add Flour!)

October is National Cookie Month! Let’s celebrate!!!

Wally "Famous" Amos poses with his famous cookies - Tallahassee, Florida

Wally “Famous” Amos poses with his famous cookies – Tallahassee, Florida (1983)

 

So grab some cookies before dinner…

 

Ginny Cobb trying to get cookie on the table - Fort Pierce, Florida

Ginny Cobb trying to get cookie on the table – Fort Pierce, Florida (1960)

 

Buy some from a local group…

 

Girl Scouts and Brownies picking up cartons in Tallahassee for annual cookie sale.

Girl Scouts and Brownies picking up cartons in Tallahassee for annual cookie sale (1959).

 

Brownies of troop No. 66 make their first cookie sale to Bond School principal W.S. Seabrooks.

Brownies of Troop No. 66 make their first cookie sale to Bond School principal W.S. Seabrooks (1956).

 

Or bake your own…

Tom Steffano at the Miami-Dade Community College south campus cafeteria - Kendall, Florida

Tom Steffano at the Miami-Dade Community College’s south campus cafeteria – Kendall, Florida (circa 1970s).

 

And share them with your friends!

 

Girl Scout cookie sale chairmen

Girl Scout cookie sale chairpersons (1938).

 

And if you want to be the top chip of your cookie exchange party, try out these cookie recipes from the collections of the State Archives of Florida!

Molasses Cut-Out Cookie

Molasses Cut-Out Cookies

 

 

 

 

Potato Chip Cookie

Potato Chip Cookies

 

 

Cottage Cheese Cookie Sticks

Cottage Cheese Cookie Sticks

 

Peanut Cookie

Peanut Cookies

 

Recipes from (Collection N2009-3, Box 139, Folder 12).