Authors with Alabama roots to be highlight of talk on Federal Writers Project

AUBURN – The contributions of Alabama writers to the 1930s depression-era Federal Writers Project will be the subject of an upcoming talk by Bert Hitchcock, Auburn University professor emeritus of English, on June 22 at 9:30 a.m. in Tuskegee University’s Bioethics Building Auditorium. Hitchcock’s talk is part of a series of programs, “New Perspectives: The WPA in Alabama,” taking place this year around the state.

The Federal Writers Project was one of the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, projects designed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to address unemployment during the Great Depression. Hitchock’s talk will focus on three writers with strong Alabama connections who worked for the Federal Writers Project.

Margaret Walker Alexander, born in Birmingham in 1915, became an author known for her poetry and for her novel, “Jubilee.” She was a professor of literature at Jackson State University and founded what is now the university’s Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center. Ruby Pickens Tartt, born in Livingston in 1880, was a lifelong resident of Alabama and instrumental in collecting and preserving the music and folklore of Sumter County. The works of Zora Neale Hurston, born in Notasulga in 1891, include “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” regarded as a seminal work in both African American and women’s literature.

Writers with the Federal Writers Project compiled local histories, conducted oral history interviews, wrote ethnographies and collected folklore and music. Although the main goal of the project was employment, an important and useful outcome was the oral histories collected from residents throughout the United States, including many from regions that had previously gone unexplored and unrecorded.

New Perspectives is funded by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the state office of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Sponsors include Tuskegee University Archives, Tuskegee University Department of History and Political Science and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.

For more information about the program, contact Tuskegee University Archivist Dana Chandler at (334) 725-2383 or dchandler@tuskegee.edu. For more information about the New Perspectives series, go to www.auburn.edu/cah.

Contact: Maiben Beard, (334) 844-4903 (maiben.beard@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)