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The Beginning of the WPA

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The Beginning of the WPA

Short | 02:06

Nearly 8 million Americans were employed through the WPA. After years of being on relief, citizens now had the opportunity to pull themselves out of the mire of the Great Depression.

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In the grip of the Great Depression, WPA writers searched for America and discovered the Soul of a People. This show explores one of the most controversial public assistance programs of its time and shows nothing less than the creation of America's first ever self-portrait.


  • John Cheever
  • Ralph Ellison
  • Anzia Yezierska
  • Vardis Fisher
  • Jim Thompson
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Richard Wright
  • John Cheever

    John Cheever

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    Acclaimed novelist and short story writer, John Cheever joined the Writers' Project as a promising young writer after publishing several stories in The New Yorker. Cheever worked in the Washington, DC office and later returned to New York where as deputy editor he wrote sections of the New York City guide, and helped to prepare it for publication. After the Depression and World War II, Cheever went on to become one of the foremost writers of American literature, writing the National Book Award winner The Wapshot Chronicle and acclaimed short stories such as "The Enormous Radio" and "The Swimmer." His 1979 collection of short stories, The Stories of John Cheever, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
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