WPA field recordings in Calhoun County (1935 recording expedition)

Date: 1935

Source: S1576 , T86-237

Type: Sound

Download: MP3

Event Name

Collector or Fieldworker

Tradition Bearer

Genre or Occupation

Title of Work

  • Throw the Breakus On Me (Soley/Delancy/others)
  • I Am Some Mothers Child (Soley/Atterly/others)
  • Sponger Money (drum and musical saw)
  • Soley Married (Atterly and group)
  • Congro (Soley)
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Soley)
  • Bella Mina (Hurston)
  • Sloop John B (Hurston)
  • Fire Down Below (Atterly/Delancey)
  • Good Morning, Father Fisher, Good Mroning Father Brown (Soley)
  • Crow Dance (Soley)
  • Caesar Riley (Atterly)
  • Sloop John B (Atterly/Delancey)
  • Captain, Theres a Spirit Aboard Your Ship (Delancey)
  • Sugar Mama (Delancey)
  • No, No, Not I (Greene)
  • Nassau Gals Going to Give Me Trouble (Soley)
  • Fire Down Below (Atterly/Delancey/Greene)
  • Tilly Lend Me Your Pigeon to Keep Company With Mine (musical saw and drums)
  • Jumping Dance (Delancey)
  • Jumping Dance (Delancey)
  • Evalina, Baby Dont Favor Me (unidentified group)

Ethnicity or Nationality

Place Name

Corporate or Conference Name


  • One reel to reel. (A audio cassette of Zora Neale Hurston's performances can be found on S 1576, C87-24; and an unnumbered tape in box 41.) These recordings were from the 1935 expedition by Lomax, Hurston, and Barnicle in Calhoun County. This was the first of several WPA recording expeditions in Florida. For more detailed information on the recordings, see S 1579, box 3, for copies of the original LOC indexes. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) – after 1939, the Works Projects Administration – was a work-relief program created in 1935 by the Roosevelt Administration that employed over 8.5 million people between 1935 and 1943. One of its programs was the Federal Writers Project (FWP), which included the Folklore Section. This section conducted fieldwork, recording songs, traditions, and stories across the nation. Originally created to gather material for the American Guide Series, but later emphasis was placed upon fieldwork for preservation of folk traditions for future use. In Florida, the FWP was based out of Jacksonville, and directed by historian Carita Doggett Corse. Folklorist Stetson Kennedy directed the Florida Folklife section. Seven recording expeditions were conducted in Florida. Two were conducted between 1935 and 1937, before the creation of the Florida Folklore Section: one by Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston, and the other by John and Ruby Lomax. After 1939, five more were conducted by Florida’s FWP staff: Kennedy, Hurston, Robert Cook, Alton Morris, Corse, Robert Conrwell, John Filareton, and Herbert Halpert (of the Joint Committee on Folk Art’s Southern Recording Expedition.) Recording equipment was loaned to Florida’s WPA program by the Library of Congress’ Archive of the American Folk Song (later the American Folk Center). The field recordings were made on acetate disks, usually recorded at 78 rpm (although occasionally at 33 rpm). Because these disks were shipped from Washington DC to Florida, then to the recording site, and then back to Washington, these disks often were not of the highest sonic quality. Several had surface scratches and many had various recording speeds. In 1986, the FFP staff made copies of many of these recordings onto reel to reels for inclusion to the Florida Folklife Archive. The originals are still housed with the Library of Congress.

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