Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Parker interview

WPA Personal History interview with Harry Parker, Yell County, Arkansas, December 11, 1940, page 1.

Originally, WPA was the acronym for the United States Work Progress Administration, 1935-1939. In 1939, the program was renamed Work Projects Administration.

WPA Early Settlers' Personal Histories of African Americans in Arkansas

Among the many relief efforts after the 1929 Depression, WPA Federal Writers' Project workers interviewed everyday people with the aim of publishing anthologies on different aspects of life in America. Two hundred and thirty-three persons were interviewed in Arkansas under this program. The originals of questionnaires used to record information during the interviews are preserved in the University Libraries' Special Collections. Transcriptions of questionnaires from interviews with seventeen African Americans interviewed in Arkansas under this project are represented here.

Background information is available in an article by Andrea Cantrell in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly 63 (Spring 2004).

Similar life history interviews from other states (though none from the Arkansas project) are available online in "American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project, 1939-1940," Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, and in These Are Our Lives (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939) and Such as Us: Southern Voices of the Thirties by Tom E. Terrill and Jerrold Hirsch (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978).

The personal history interviews are both similar to, and different from, interviews conducted in the WPA Ex-Slave Narratives project. More information about the Ex-Slave Narratives for persons from Arkansas is available in Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collections, edited by George E. Lankford (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003) and "Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938," Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division.

Transcriptions of the early settlers' personal histories of African Americans interviewed in Arkansas can be reached via the following links:

Notes from Transcriber

Oral history transcripts require Adobe Reader. This can be downloaded free of charge.

Individual African-American personal history interviewees

Interviewees by Arkansas county of residence at time of interview (ca. 1941)

County of Interview Interviewee
Crawford Childs, Recebba (Mrs. Jessie Childs)
Crawford William, Author
Hempstead Johnson, Chess
Hempstead McKinley, A.R.
Hempstead Moore, Primus
Hempstead Reed, Lawston
Hempstead Royal, Emma (Mrs. John Royal)
Hempstead Smith, William
Hempstead Sutton, Malinda (Mrs. Eligah Sutton)
Hempstead Tellington, Frank
Johnson Newton, Pate
Lonoke Washington, George
Washington Blakeley, Adeline
Yell Edwards, Laura Jackson (Mrs. John Edwards)
Yell May, Ike
Yell Parker, Harry

Interviewees by place of birth

State Place or County Interviewee
Arkansas Columbus Johnson, Chess
Arkansas Dardanelle May, Ike
Arkansas Hempstead Mitchell, Ben
Arkansas Hempstead Co. Smith, William
Arkansas Johnson Co. Newton, Pate
Arkansas Lewisville McKinley, A.R.
Arkansas Little River Co. Sutton, Malinda (Mrs. Eligah Sutton)
Arkansas Washington Moore, Primus
Arkansas Yell Co. Parker, Harry
Georgia Macon Mitchell, Ben
Louisiana Chatteau Parish Reed, Lawston
Mississippi [not given] Edwards, Laura Jackson (Mrs. John Edwards)
N. Carolina Bradie William, Author
N. Carolina Clinton Tellington, Frank
S. Carolina [not given] Childs, Recebba (Mrs. Jessie Childs)
Tennessee Hickman Co. Blakeley, Adeline
Tennessee Shelby Washington, George
Texas Corsicana Royal, Emma (Mrs. John Royal)

Interviewees by place in which they were slaves, if applicable

Place Interviewee
Arkansas Blakeley, Adeline
Arkansas (after Mississippi) Edwards, Laura Jackson
(Mrs. John Edwards)
Arkansas Parker, Harry
Georgia Mitchell, Ben
Arkansas Newton, Pate
(then Arkansas)
Edwards, Laura Jackson
(Mrs. John Edwards)
Texas Royal, Emma (Mrs. John Royal)
Not given Johnson, Chess
Not given Moore, Primus
Not given Reed, Lawston
Not given Smith, William
Not given Sutton, Malinda (Mrs. Eligah Sutton)

Interviewees by name of slaveholder, if applicable

Slaveholder Interviewee
Blakeley, Nora Blakeley, Adeline
Dixon, Bill Mitchell, Ben
Hudgens, Mrs. Harvey M. Blakeley, Adeline
Jackson, Mrs. Elsie Edwards, Laura Jackson (Mrs. John Edwards)
Melton, Johnson Royal, Emma (Mrs. John Royal)
Newton, _______ Newton, Pate
Parker, John M. Parker, Harry
Parkes, John Blakeley, Adeline
Not given Johnson, Chess
Not given Moore, Primus
Not given Smith, William
Not given Sutton, Malinda (Mrs. Eligah Sutton)

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