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Federal Writers' Project

Works Progress Administration, Travels with Charley in Search of America

A branch of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Federal Writers' Project was established in 1935 to sponsor national projects for the relief of unemployed writers. The project employed some 4,500 to 5,000 people and produced a steady stream of books, pamphlets and ‘issuances’, including the series of guides to American cities and states (celebrated in John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America, 1962). The initiative was praised by W. H. Auden who said that ‘to consider in a time of general distress, starving artists as artists and not simply as paupers is unique to the Roosevelt administration’. It was the organized activities of the project that gave work to writers such as Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Richard Wright, and others. The project was under the directorship of Henry G. Alsberg who received the active support of the President's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, but it was not without its critics, some of whom saw it as a refuge for left-wing intellectuals and artists, or as unnecessary public expenditure. Like many other New Deal projects the Federal Writers' Project did not survive the Second World War, and funding ceased in 1943. The Dream and the Deal: The Federal Writers' Project, 1935–1943 (1972), by Jerry Mangione, is a history of the project.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Sebastian Faulks Biography to Football Milieu