WPA field recordings at Gainesville, Raiford, Panama City, and Jacksonville

Date: October 4, 1939

Source: S1576 , T86-226

Type: Sound

Download: MP3

Event Name

Collector or Fieldworker

Tradition Bearer

Genre or Occupation

Title of Work

  • Misirlou (Jennie Castrounis)
  • Retsina (John Castrounis)
  • Manavis
  • Greek Lullaby
  • He-Xehasas
  • Haitho
  • Mousmoulia
  • Old Bad Laz'us (Reid)
  • Job, Job (D. Reed/Hall/Allison)
  • Job, Job
  • Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (C. Reed/Medlock/Griffin) 
  • Lost Train Blues (Perry/Carver)
  • Holy Manna (Jackson/Sacred Harp Singers)
  • Explanation of Sacred Harp singing
  • Voice practice
  • The Poetry [Evening Shade]
  • The Poor Wayfaring Stranger
  • The Old Ship of Zion
  • Holy Manna
  • Voice practice
  • The Poetry [Evening Shade]
  • The Poor Wayfaring Stranger
  • Zoom Gali (McLaughlin/Cleveland)
  • Tramping
  • Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho (McLaughlin)
  • Nancy Lee (Surber)
  • The Poor Old Slave
  • Here We Dance Lubin, Lubin
  • The Best Old Fellow in the Land
  • With His Old Gray Beard a'Shakin

Ethnicity or Nationality

Place Name

Corporate or Conference Name


  • One reel to reel. These recordings were created the Lomaxes and Morris of the University of Florida, assisted by workers of the Florida Writers Project (including photographer Robert Cook), in 1939 and 1949. Morris created 14 12-inch acetate records in total. On his 1939 trip, he recorded Greek singers in Jacksonville; in 1949, he recorded Sacred Harp singers in Gainesville, and local singers in Jacksonville and Panama City. The Lomax recordings are from a 1939 trip to the State Prison Farm in Raiford ("Job Job" was recorded in Livingston, Alabama). 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 Cornwell, 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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