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WPA field recordings in Jacksonville (1939 recording expedition: Herbert Halpert)

Type:

Sound

Date:

06/18/1939

Item:

Audio recording

Series:

S1576

Item ID:

T86-243

Download: MP3

General Note/Comment

  • One reel to reel. (These recordings appear at the end of the reel. The rest of the reel is another WPA expedition.)All of Zora Neale Hurston's Florida recordings can be found on C87-24, including those on this reel. These recordings were created by folklorist Halpert -- originally of New York City, and later a pioneer in the field, in June 1939. This was part of a larger nine-state fieldwork tour of the South between 12 March and 30 June 1939. He created a total of twelve 12-inch acetate records in Florida. On this recording, Halpert was assisted by Stetson Kennedy in Jacksonville. For more detailed information on the recordings, see S 1579, box 3, for copies of the original LOC indexes. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) – after 1939, the Works Projects Administration – was a work-relief program created in 1935 by the Roosevelt Administration that employed over 8.5 million people between 1935 and 1943. One of its programs was the Federal Writers Project (FWP), which included the Folklore Section. This section conducted fieldwork, recording songs, traditions, and stories across the nation. Originally created to gather material for the American Guide Series, but later emphasis was placed upon fieldwork for preservation of folk traditions for future use. In Florida, the FWP was based out of Jacksonville, and directed by historian Carita Doggett Corse. Folklorist Stetson Kennedy directed the Florida Folklife section. Seven recording expeditions were conducted in Florida. Two were conducted between 1935 and 1937, before the creation of the Florida Folklore Section: one by Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston, and the other by John and Ruby Lomax. After 1939, five more were conducted by Florida’s FWP staff: Kennedy, Hurston, Robert Cook, Alton Morris, Corse, Robert Cornwell, John Filareton, and Herbert Halpert (of the Joint Committee on Folk Art’s Southern Recording Expedition.) Recording equipment was loaned to Florida’s WPA program by the Library of Congress’ Archive of the American Folk Song (later the American Folk Center). The field recordings were made on acetate disks, usually recorded at 78 rpm (although occasionally at 33 rpm). Because these disks were shipped from Washington DC to Florida, then to the recording site, and then back to Washington, these disks often were not of the highest sonic quality. Several had surface scratches and many had various recording speeds. In 1986, the FFP staff made copies of many of these recordings onto reel to reels for inclusion to the Florida Folklife Archive. The originals are still housed with the Library of Congress.

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