WPA field recordings at the Florida State Prison in Union County , and in Palm Beach County (1936-1937 recording expedition)

Date: 1936

Source: S1576 , T86-239

Type: Sound

Download: MP3

Event Name

Collector or Fieldworker

Tradition Bearer

Genre or Occupation

Title of Work

  • Sermon (Bryant) (Raiford)
  • John Henry (Clemens) (Raiford)
  • Handwriting on the Wall (Franklin) (Raiford)
  • Just Because You Been Born Again (Brown) (Raiford)
  • Loosen This Old Shackle (Jackson) (Belle Glade)
  • Pick Song (Jackson) (Belle Glade)
  • Mothers Child (Johnson) (Belle Glade)
  • Oh Captain (Davis) (Belle Glade)
  • Oh Working on the Levee (Davis (Belle Glade)
  • Prisoner Blues (Jones) (Raiford)
  • High Lonesome Hill (Common) (Raiford)
  • Drinking and Gambling (Common) (Raiford)
  • I Love Jesus (Raiford)
  • Martha Had Baby (McLean) (Raiford)
  • Lights in the Quarters Getting Mighty Dim Partner (McLean) (Raiford)
  • Devil Told Job (Raiford)
  • Sun Wouldnt Shine On Yanders Mountain (Raiford)
  • Cant You line Em (McLean) (Raiford)
  • Stagolee (McLean) (Raiford)

Ethnicity or Nationality

Place Name

Corporate or Conference Name


  • One reel to reel. (Copied onto audio cassette C90-43/44 in S 1576.) These recordings were created during the 1936-1937 expedition led by John Lomax. In these recordings he visited the Florida State Prison at Raiford in Union County. These were the second of several WPA recording expeditions in Florida. At the time Lomax was in charge of the folklife section of the Federal Writers Project. He left that position in 1938, and in 1939 returned to Florida (including to Raiford and Alachua County). See the online exhibit about that 1939 expedition at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/lohtml/lohome.html 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.

Order by Mail

State Archives of Florida
500 S. Bronough St.
MS #9 D
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250

(Please do not send cash in the mail.)

Order by Email

[email protected]
Please call with credit card numbers.

Order by Phone

Archives Photographic and Film Unit

Audio Duplication

Cassette to CD $10.00 per cassette
CD to CD $10.00 per disc
DAT to CD $25.00 per tape
Reel-to-Reel Transfer to CD $25.00 per tape