Federal Writers’ Project sagged in South

“In January 1936 Katharine Kellock, field representative for the Federal Writers’ Project, set out from Washington to survey the project’s offices in the Southeastern states….

“Kellock was dismayed by what she found. She discovered incompetent editors and incorrect filing systems and improper spending. Some workers were turning in useless copy. Others weren’t entirely sure what the FWP was supposed to be doing. The national staff had anticipated that the Southeastern office would be thin on expertise and experience; the density of writers in, say, Georgia, didn’t compare with that in New York or Illinois.

“But now Kellock could see how this disadvantage looked in practice. A federal writer on the North Carolina project described her colleagues this way: ‘A skilled city editor, victim of retrenchment — and a newsroom hanger-on to be described as only a moderate drunk. A man who had been good at his craft, in his day, but was simply too old to adapt. And housewives, some college women, some widows with only high school, or less. There were former teachers set adrift by cuts in staff. We had a few boys and girls who had really had no jobs at all.’ ”

— From “Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America” by Scott Borchert (2021)

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