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December 19, 2002
"Man-On-The-Street" Interviews from the Days Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor Featured in New Online Presentation
Interviews are part of American Folklife Center's Radio Research Project Collection
Salesmen, janitors, cab drivers, housewives, students, soldiers and senators; young and old; men and women; long-time residents and recent immigrants to the United States-all are represented in a new online presentation of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress titled "After the Day of Infamy: 'Man-on-the-Street' Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor." The address is http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/afcphhtml.
The Pearl Harbor interviews were part of the Radio Research Project of the Library of Congress, which was initiated by Librarian Archibald MacLeish in 1941 as an experimental project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to produce "popular education" radio programming related to local, regional, and national history, traditions and lore in America. The aim was to prevent fascism from taking root in the United States during a time when democracies throughout Europe were under siege.
In mid-1941, the project's team of writers, researchers and recording engineers began to move out into local communities to interview and record the speech, music and songs of ordinary Americans from all parts of the country, describing their lives, singing their songs and telling their stories.
On Dec. 8, 1941, with the Radio Research Project already underway, Alan Lomax, head of the Library of Congress' Archive of American Folk Song, sent a telegram to folklorists in 10 different localities around the United States, asking them to collect "man-on-the-street" reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war by the United States. The resulting collection, approximately 12 hours of recorded comments, includes a diversity of opinion concerning the war and other social and political issues of the day, such as racial prejudice and labor disputes. It constitutes a portrait of everyday life in America as the United States entered World War II.
Included in the "After the Day of Infamy" presentation is an essay on making and maintaining the original recordings. Another presentation, "The Radio Research Project at the Library of Congress by Alan Gevinson," will be added soon. The presentation was created in collaboration with the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, Hyde Park, New York, and the New Deal Network.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
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