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Appalachian’s Belk Library presents series on WPA’s Writers’ Project

Hurston_t.jpgBOONE—Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University will present a series of programs titled “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story” beginning April 5.

The series of programs will give Western North Carolina citizens the opportunity to participate in library-sponsored humanities programs that explore the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Writers’ Project, a New Deal program established during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. The program will use the American Guide series of state travel guides, regional cultural studies, oral history interviews, films and photographs. More information is available at http://www.library.appstate.edu/soul.

Zora Neale Hurston.jpg
A discussion of Zora Neale Hurston’s book “Their Eyes Were Watching God” will open
a series of programs focusing on the Works Progress Administration’s Writers’ Project. The series is sponsored by Appalachian State University’s Belk Library and Information Commons.

The first of the programs will be a book discussion of WPA writer Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” Sunday, April 5, at 2 p.m. in Room 421 Belk Library and Information Commons. Light refreshments will be served. For a copy of the book, contact Megan Johnson at johnsnm@appstate.edu or (828) 262-2823.

On Sunday, April 19, there will be a “Tour of the Parkway Project.” Participants will meet at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on campus at 1:45 p.m. for a charter bus tour that will focus on local WPA architecture, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and Boone’s downtown post office with its historic mural. The idealized Boone and Blowing Rock portrayed in the original 1939 WPA “American Guide Series: North Carolina” will be contrasted with realties of the region during the 1930s. The bus will return to campus at 4 p.m. Reserve a seat by e-mailing Megan Johnson at johnsnm@appstate.edu or calling 828-262-2823.

A screening of an excerpt from the documentary “Soul of a People: Voices from the Writers’ Project” will be shown Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. in Room 114 Belk Library and Information Commons. A discussion moderated by Dr. Neva Specht from Appalachian’s Department of History will follow the screening. Specht is the lead project scholar for the “Soul of a People” lecture series. She also is Appalachian’s liaison to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A “Soul of a People” celebration will be held Saturday, May 2, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library. The celebration will feature a 1930s atmosphere with music, displays related to the WPA Federal Writers’ Project, antiques and photographs.  Refreshments will be served throughout the day. Story teller Elizabeth Baird Hardy  will present selections from “Bundle of Troubles, and other Tarheel Tales” by workers of the Writers’ program in North Carolina from noon-1 p.m. Children can make their own crafts from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Dave Haney and Lisa Baldwin will perform old time music from 3-4 p.m. Oral history interviews will be collected from 12:30-4 p.m.

A book discussion of WPA writer Saul Bellow’s “Seize the Day” will be held Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. in Room 421 Belk Library and Information Commons. Light refreshments will be served. For a copy of the book, contact Megan Johnson at johnsnm@appstate.edu or (828) 262-2823.

“Oral Histories: Then and Now” will be presented June 21 in Room 421 Belk Library and Information Commons. Neva Specht will discuss oral histories available from the Library of Congress Web site, including life histories collected during the WPA Writers’ Project and slave narratives, and the array of oral history resources available locally. The lecture is from 2-2:45 p.m. Beginning at 3 p.m., Specht will lead a workshop on ways citizens can collect and preserve their own oral histories.

These programs are designed to enhance and strengthen the national impact of the documentary “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story,” a film supported with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will be broadcast nationally this spring. The film centers on the evolution of the WPA Writers’ Project—from its obscure bureaucratic origins to its creation of a series of travel guides that amounted to the first national biography.

The series is a collaboration of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Library Association (ALA) and Spark Media, a Washington, D.C.-based production and outreach company. The library programs associated with “Soul of a People” are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to the American Library Association.

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