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)

Who are you calling ‘the Ireland of America’?

“….In many ways Mississippi is the Ireland of America. It’s a green place where literature and music are valued more than acquiring wealth (perhaps because we’ve always been better at the former than the latter). Drinking and fighting are accepted and often respected social endeavors, and defending one’s honor is still considered worthy if not mandatory.”

— From “Oxford, MI, Famous: Elvis, Kimonos, Castor Beans, and a Grinder” by Stuart Stevens in the Daily Beast (April 30, 2013)

“Kentucky has been sometimes called the Ireland of America. And I have no doubt that, if the emigration were reversed…  every American emigrant to Ireland would find, as every Irish emigrant here finds, a hearty welcome and a happy home.”

— From remarks by Sen. Henry Clay (Feb. 3, 1832)

“People of every nation and prejudice met here [in Maryland]… This was the Ireland of America!

— From “Retrospections of America, 1797-1811” by John Bernard (1887)

“From 1815 to 1835, North Carolina made such little economic and social progress that it was called the Rip Van Winkle of the states and the Ireland of America.”

— From “North Carolina: A Guide to the Old North State” by the Federal Writers’ Project (1939)

So many “Irelands of America”! But only for North Carolina does the label seem entirely negative.