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Record Group Number: 000158
Series/Collection Number: .S 1583
Creator: Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs. Florida Folklife Archive
Title, Dates: Works Progress Administration Federal Writers Project Florida folklore files, 1935-1943.
Amount: 1.50 cubic ft.
Medium Included:
Organization/Arrangement: Alphabetical.
Terms Governing Use:
Biographical/Historical:     Legislation in 1979 (79-322, SB 1208) transferred the Florida Folk Arts component of the Stephen Foster Memorial to the Florida Department of State. Operating as the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs from ca. 1985 until 1995, the Bureau coordinated the annual Florida Folk Festival and directed such programs as Folk Arts Apprenticeships, Folk Arts in Education, Folk Heritage awards, annual research surveys, and numerous other projects and programs. From 1995 through June 30, 2021, the renamed and reorganized Florida Folklife Program continued the majority of these operations from within the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Historic Preservation in Tallahassee. During the 1995 reorganization, the State Archives of Florida acquired the Florida Folklife Collection from the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs’ previously maintained Florida Folklife Archives. Legislation in 2021 (2021-71, L. O. F., HB 909) transferred the Florida Folklife Program and its operations from the Division of Historical Resources to the newly renamed Division of Arts and Culture, previously the Division of Cultural Resources, effective July 1, 2021. The program is charged to "identify, research, interpret, and present Florida folk arts, artists, performers, folklore, traditions, customs, and cultural heritage and make folk cultural resources and folklife projects available throughout the state."

    The Federal Writers' Project, under the Works Progress Administration, was a federal government project designed to create jobs for unemployed writers during the Great Depression. Established on July 27, 1935, one goal of the project was the creation of the "American Guide Series", a series of published guidebooks on each state. Federal Writers' Project offices were established in every state, excluding Hawaii, and federal guidelines required that ninety percent of the staff be from the ranks of the unemployed.

    From the beginning of the project, the collection of folk customs and lore was an integral aspect of the "American Guide Series." Fieldworkers traveled across the state to gather firsthand information and materials for the guide. They conducted interviews and observed the local communities, architecture, flora, fauna, and more. The first edition of the Works Progress Administration's Florida Guide was published in 1939. In 1943, when Congress closed the Federal Writers' Project, only a caretaker crew remained in the Florida office.

Summary:     This collection consists of copies of research gathered in the 1930s and 1940s by the Federal Writers' Project of Florida. The materials are transcripts and edited copies of interviews and field notes and document a broad range of folklife subjects from Florida's Cracker, African American, Cuban, Seminole, Minorcan, and other ethnic cultures. Topics include beliefs and customs, folk tales and stories, dialects and jargon, agricultural lore, occupational lore, proverbs, songs, rhymes, cowboy and prison lore, and superstitions. Of special interest are the narratives of former enslaved men and women.

Finding Aids: In addition to the folder listing in the online catalog, the Archives has a separate Reference Guide prepared by the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, consisting of an itemized list of the contents of each folder and several indexes, including by song title, informant, location, and subject.
Additional Physical Form:
Reproduction Note: Photocopies.
Location of Originals/Duplicates: Originals housed at the Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division.
Associated Materials: For related materials, see series S1585, The Stetson Kennedy Florida Folklife Collection.
Language Notes:
Ownership/Custodial History: These materials were compiled by the Florida office of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration.  They were deposited in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and in 1982, the Florida Folklife Archive received this set of copies of thefiles.
Publication Note: Information contained in these records has been used in several publications:
The American Slave : A Composite Autobiography, Vol. 17, Florida Narratives / ed., with an introduction, by George P. Rawick. Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Publishing Company, 1941.
Florida : A Guide to the Southernmost State / Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration.  New York : Oxford University Press, 1939.
The Florida Negro : A Federal Writers' Project Legacy / edited by Gary W. McDonogh.  Jackson, Miss. : University Press of Mississippi, 1993.
Palmetto Country / Stetson Kennedy.  New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942.
General Note:
Electronic Records Access:
Subject Access Fields: Ethnic folklore Florida
Folklore Florida
Folk songs Florida
Slavery Florida
African Americans Florida.
African Americans Folklore. Florida
Oral biography.
Oral histories. aat
Florida Description and travel
Florida Social life and customs
Added Entries Federal Writers' Project (Fla.)