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New Mexico State University

University Library News Release

Date: March 11, 2009


CONTACT: Jeanette Smith, NMSU Library, (575) 646-7492,

Library Announces Programs on Federal Writers' Project

The New Mexico State University Library is sponsoring "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story," a series of free public programs about the New Deal Federal Writers' Project during April and May. The programs are co-sponsored by the Branigan Cultural Center and the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library.

The first program, "The Great Depression Road Show," will take place on Saturday, April 4, all day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Branigan Cultural Center in downtown Las Cruces. It includes:

  • 9 a.m. "Favorite Quilt Patterns from the 1930s: From Feedsack Fabrics to Grandmother's Flower Garden."
  • 10 a.m. "'30s Crafts and Games for Children."
  • 10 a.m. "Women's Clubs During the Depression Era."
  • 11 a.m. "Slaves, Sidekicks and Healers: Women's Stories Collected by the WPA," a storytelling performance.
  • Noon. "Jitterbug! Swing Dance Demonstration and Instruction."
  • 1:30 p.m. "'30s Show and Tell." Bring your items from the '30s era.
  • 3 p.m. Showing of excerpts from the documentary film "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story," produced by Spark Media.
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. "Display of Home Scenes from the '30s.
  • 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. "Collection of Oral Histories About the '30s." Tell us your recollections of the 1930s. Call (575) 646-6925 or (575) 646-4385 to schedule a session in advance.

Other programs in the series are:

  • Saturday, April 18, at 4 p.m., Dr. Jon Hunner of NMSU's Public History Program will do a presentation on "New Mexico's Voices: Local Oral Histories from the Writers' Project" on the fourth floor of Branson Library.
  • Monday, April 27, at 4:30 p.m., Mardi Mahaffy and Sylvia Ortiz will present a program on the travel guide New Mexico: A Guide to a Colorful State on the fourth floor of Branson Library.
  • Monday, May 4, at 3 p.m., Dr. Sarah Hagelin of the NMSU English Department will discuss the novel The Surrounded by D'Arcy McNickle at the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library.
  • Throughout May, Depression-era film series and discussions TBA, at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library.

The Federal Writers' Project was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's mammoth Works Progress Administration, designed to get Americans back to work after the Great Depression. It was responsible for the American Guide Series of travel guides for every state and for interviews with former slaves and thousands of citizens all across the U.S. in the 1930s.

Many writers from the Federal Writers' Project later became famous, among them Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel and Eudora Welty.

The NMSU Library's programming is presented in conjunction with a major documentary television program about the Federal Writers' Project produced by Spark Media of Washington, D.C., entitled "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story." The documentary will be broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel HD.

"Soul of a People" programs in libraries nationwide are sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life. The local programs are made possible by a Soul of a People grant to the NMSU Library from the NEH with additional funding from the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico.

For more information, contact Mardi Mahaffy at (575) 646-6925 or or Sylvia Ortiz at (575) 646-7481 or or visit