Freedom Dreams: The Last Generation
The concluding chapter offers a powerful summary of the ex-slaves’ relationship to history and also looks at what happened to the central figures involved with the Federal Writers’ Project, including Henry Alsberg, Sterling Brown, John Lomax, and Zora Neale Hurston. The investigation of the House Un-American Activities Committee re-organized the FWP into a state-supervised Writers’ Project, despite protest by the NAACP. Studies on black history such as Georgia’s Drums and Shadows were handed over to the control of state directors. At the Library of Congress, folklorist Benjamin Botkin oversaw formal appraisals of the WPA slave narratives to determine their value. The short-term outcomes of the Ex-Slave Project reinforce one of the book’s central arguments: The New Deal’s Federal Arts Projects aimed to rewrite national identity in more pluralistic ways, but it was difficult to displace assumptions about black racial identity. These limitations ultimately left the promise of black self-representation unfulfilled.
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