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American Folklife Center Collections: Florida

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of Florida at the Library of Congress.


Letter from Carita Doggett Corse to Henry Alsberg, May 23, 1939 introducing the report, "Proposed Recording Expedition into the Floridas," by Zora Neale Hurston and recommending Hurston's participation in the project. (image 2). Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections. 1937 to 1942. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The collections of the American Folklife Center contain rich and varied materials from Florida that document the diversity of the state's folk traditions. Among its unique recordings are African American music, religion and folktales collected by Zora Neale Hurston, John A. and Alan Lomax, Alton Morris, and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle in the 1930s; Seminole songs and stories; music and narrative collected by Stetson Kennedy and others during the Works Projects Administration Writers and Music projects; and the folklore of African American longshoremen. From 1986 to 1987, the American Folklife Center, in cooperation with the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, conducted the Maritime Heritage Survey Project in Mayport, Apalachicola, and neighboring communities to document the occupational traditions of Florida's fishermen.

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937 to 1942

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections combines sound recordings and manuscript materials from four discrete archival collections made by Work Projects Administration (WPA) workers from the Joint Committee on Folk Arts, the Federal Writers' Project, and the Federal Music Project from 1937-1942. This online presentation provides access to 376 sound recordings and 106 accompanying materials, including recording logs, transcripts, correspondence between Florida WPA workers and Library of Congress personnel, and a proposal to survey Florida folklore by Zora Neale Hurston. An essay by Stetson Kennedy, who worked with Hurston and other WPA collectors, reflects on the labor and the legacy of the WPA in Florida; and an extensive bibliography and list of related Web sites add further context about the New Deal era and Florida culture.

The recording equipment was loaned by the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song (American Folklife Center Archive). Recordists included Robert Harrison Cook, Herbert Halpert, The sound quality of these recordings is, at times, extremely poor. The fragile blank acetate disks had to be shipped to the Federal Writers' Project office in Jacksonville, then transported to recording sites throughout the state to be filled with songs and stories before being shipped back to the Library of Congress. It is therefore not surprising that they contain a high level of scratchy surface noise.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

Pioneering folklorist, social activist and writer Stetson Kennedy, of Jacksonville, Florida, discussed his long and wide-ranging career and explored the theme of "Building Democracy in America" in a lecture presented by the American Folklife Center as part of its Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series. The event was co-sponsored by Holland & Knight LLP. The program was introduced by Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center, who wrote her doctoral dissertation on Stetson Kennedy, and facilitated by John Y. Cole, an expert on the Federal Writers' Project and the director of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. Library of Congress, May 24, 2005.

Additional Public Programming