The American Inspiration author series by American Ancestors New England Historic Genealogical (NEHGS) and the State Library of Massachusetts present author Scott Borchert and his work looking at America’s history, the remarkable mission and output of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP).
Scott Borchert’s "Republic of Detours" tells the story of this raucous and remarkable undertaking by delving into the experiences of key figures and tracing the FWP from its optimistic early days to its dismemberment by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. We observe notable writers at their day jobs, including Nelson Algren, broke and smarting from the failure of his first novel; Zora Neale Hurston, the most widely published Black woman in the country; and Richard Wright, who arrived in the FWP’s chaotic New York City office on an upward career trajectory courtesy of the WPA. Meanwhile, Ralph Ellison, Studs Terkel, John Cheever, and other future literary stars found encouragement and security on the FWP payroll. By way of these writers’ stories, Scott Borchert illuminates an essentially noble enterprise that sought to create a broad and inclusive self-portrait of America at a time when the nation’s very identity and future were thrown into question.
Following an illustrated presentation, the author will be in a conversation with American Ancestors NEHGS Senior Genealogist Rhonda McClure and answer audience questions (submitted below).
This program is brought to you by the Brue Family Learning Center at American Ancestors NEHGS.