Refugees on levee, April 17, 1897, photo by Carroll's Art Gallery

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Drums at Dusk

Drums at Dusk by Arna Bontemps is an imaginary story set in the Caribbean island of Saint Dominque two years after the Parisian mobs stormed the Bastille. French sugar plantation owners are faced with a slave insurrection. While voodoo drums rumble in the night air, a gathering of blacks plans to burn cane fields and mansions, destroying Saint Dominique, the most wealthy and profitable overseas French Colony of the day. The creole city of Le Cap becomes the last refuge before whites flee the island.

Drums at Dusk, title page Arna Bontemps, Author New York: MacMillan, 1939 General Collections, Library of Congress (74)

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Highlights of Harlem, America's Great Black Center

This intriguing portrait of one of the great centers of black culture and creativity, entitled Harlem: Negro Metropolis, was written during the high point of America's fascination with the New York district. As Jamaican-born black author Claude McKay suggests, not only creative artists, but imaginative and even revolutionary thinkers swarmed to Harlem just prior to World War II.

Harlem: Negro Metropolis, p.117 Claude McKay, Author New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1940 General Collections,Library of Congress (75)

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The Negro in Virginia Documents Black Contributions

The Negro in Virginia is one of the most thorough studies done on American blacks by WPA writers during the 1930s and 1940s. Begun under the auspices of the Federal Writers' Project, the book was completed by the Virginia Project after the demise of the FWP in 1939. The book covers the whole history and contributions of blacks in Virginia, from colonial times to 1940.

The Negro in Virginia, p. 260. Federal Workers of the Writers' Program of Virginia, comp. New York: Hastings House, 1940 General Collections, Library of Congress (83)

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Gumbo Ya-Ya

Creoles and Cajuns, Frenchmen and Spaniards, slaves, free-blacks, Englishmen, and Indians, form the incredible social "bouillabaisse" out of which the writers of the Louisiana WPA extracted this collection of the fantastic folklore of bayou country. Initiated under the auspices of the Federal Writers' Project, Gumbo Ya-Ya was compiled by Lyle Saxon, State Director of the Louisiana Project, and was richly illustrated by Caroline Durifux and Roland Duevernet.

Gumbo Ya-Ya, title page Compiled by the Louisiana Writers' Project Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1945 General Collections, Library of Congress (84)

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Oral Autobiographies of Farmers and Workers

These Are Our Lives is a collection of thirty-five oral autobiographies of black and white farmers and workers of the South, recorded by Federal Writers' Project people in the states of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The idea of the autobiographies, as expressed by their initiator, W.T. Couch, of the North Carolina Project, was to “get life histories which are readable and faithful representations of living persons, and which… will give a fair picture of the structure of working society.”

These Are Our Lives, title page Writers' Programs of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, comp. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1939 General Collections, Library of Congress (85)

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Living African Traditions in America

The coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina proved to be a goldmine for the study of living African traditions in America. In Drums and Shadows the Georgia Writers' Project chronicled the tenacity of African artistic and linguistic traditions and their influence on American culture.

Drums and Shadows:Survival Studies among the Georgia Coastal Negroes, pl. XII Georgia Writers' Project of the WPA, comp. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1940 General Collections, Library of Congress (86)

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