Document Type



This article examines the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project’s challenge and legacy to scholars seeking to create an FWP-inspired project today. It explores how scholars in various disciplines engaged in the “public turn,” which has contributed to university-community research and teaching projects, can gain perspective and insight from learning about the FWP’s goals and accomplishments. The article focuses on the FWP’s pluralistic vision of national identity, which led national FWP officials to examine American diversity in encyclopedic guidebooks and through oral history, ethnic, and folklore studies. By exploring why the work of the FWP was ignored for a long time and how its vision and work gradually reemerged, I seek not only to provide a history of the FWPs reputation but also to shed light on the opportunities and responsibilities the FWP offers to current efforts to create new FWP-like projects for a new time.


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