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[Detail] Fishermen. Key West, Florida

Historical Analysis and Interpretation: Assessing Credibility

The collection includes correspondence—letters, memos, and telegrams—written by and to staff of the Florida Writers' Project and of the Library of Congress. Much of the correspondence is between staff at the two locations.

Carita Doggett Corse, the supervisor of the Florida Writers' Project, wrote to the director of the Music Division of the Library of Congress on October 2, 1939. Her letter read, in part,

So far storms have made it impossible to record the songs of the shrimp fleets. We have made two attempts, but the boats could not go out and the workers will not sing unless they are actually engaged in preparing shrimp for market. As soon as the weather permits we will try again.

From "Letter from Carita Doggett Corse to Harold Spivacke, October 2, 1939"

Read the letter quoted above, as well as the October 6 letter from Corse, the memo from Charles Seeger in response to Corse's October 2 letter, and the letter from folk music expert Alan Lomax to Corse written on October 15.

  • Identify three or more distinct types of problems the Florida Writers' Project faced in trying to capture folk songs and other folklore.
  • What advice was given to the Florida workers? What was the thinking behind this advice? Do you think the advice was easy to implement? Why or why not?
  • What, if anything, in the correspondence makes the material collected by the project more credible to you? What, if anything, makes it less credible? Explain your reasoning.