Established in 1935, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) was part of the larger economic stimulus efforts of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), developed as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's American New Deal. In collaboration with state and local governments, writers for the FWP compiled local histories, personal narratives and oral histories, and ethnographies, as well as demographic, economic, agricultural and geographic information and statistics for all 48 states. Much of the FWP was used in publishing the American Guide series, such as Delaware: A Guide to the First State (1938). Another project, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, is considered one of the most enduring and noteworthy accomplishments of the WPA, which collected over 2,300 interviews and first person accounts by formerly enslaved people. Born in Slavery is an archival collection housed at the Library of Congress (see below).
The Delaware Federal Writer’s Project collection is an archive of reports, articles, photographs, and notes about the First State. Submitted by numerous writers, topics include historical, economic, agricultural, sociological, and cultural commentaries about Delaware and its residents. The articles provide informative perspectives from the 1930s on race, racial segregation, and its impact on African Americans in Delaware.
The assembled collection was bound into 48 volumes, in no particular order, with an index volume. The index reflects language of the period, such as "Negro, Negroes" and is full of filing idiosyncracies. Researchers should be mindful of how explicit and implicit racial prejudice and racial segregation may have influenced the writers' representation of Black people and their culture. The list seen below is a sample of topics related to African Americans. To promote scanability here, some terms have been inverted from the original index, i.e. "Evidence of abolition and public school sentiment" has been inverted for this list to "Abolition and public school sentiment, evidence of."
All volumes of the collection, as well as the index, are available as PDFs through UDSpace, the University of Delaware's Institutional Repository.
The Delaware Federal Writers Project collection contains information on a wide range of Delaware topics. Please ask for assistance if you need help searching its contents.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE DELAWARE FEDERAL WRITERS' PROJECT (selected list):