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Long Past SlaveryRepresenting Race in the Federal Writers' Project$
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Catherine A. Stewart

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469626260

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469626260.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Committing Mayhem on the Body Grammatic

Committing Mayhem on the Body Grammatic

The Federal Writers’ Project, the American Guide, and Representations of Black Identity

(p.35) Chapter Two Committing Mayhem on the Body Grammatic
Long Past Slavery

Catherine A. Stewart

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the creation of the Federal Writers’ Project and the American Guide Series during the New Deal. It covers hiring practices, the structure and organization of the FWP, and the rationale and literary models (travel writing and ethnography) for the American Guide. Federal directors like Henry Alsberg faced considerable challenges in trying to reconcile local and state employees’ perspectives on ethnic and racial groups with the more objective and cosmopolitan view of the federal office. Activist John Preston Davis pushed Alsberg to create the Office on Negro Affairs to oversee material pertaining to black history. However, editor Sterling Brown faced racial discrimination and continual challenges to his authority and vision of “racial uplift.” State directors strongly objected to his corrections, such as Alabama’s director, a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who was invested in representing slavery as a benevolent institution.

Keywords:   Federal Writers’ Project, Henry Alsberg, New Deal, American Guide, black history, Office on Negro Affairs, Sterling Brown, racial discrimination, United Daughters of the Confederacy, racial uplift

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