Talk about Trouble: A New Deal Portrait of Virginians in the Great Depression

Overview

'Things ain't now like they used to be nohow,' a Virginia native told a WPA worker in the 1930s. Indeed, a central theme unifying the hundreds of life histories recorded by Virginia Writers' Project fieldworkers between 1938 and 1941 is that the narrators all bear witness to the vast socioeconomic and cultural changes brought about by the Great Depression and the New Deal's responses to it. These never-published VWP narrative interviews, however, have remained largely unknown and unavailable to readers until now....

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Overview

'Things ain't now like they used to be nohow,' a Virginia native told a WPA worker in the 1930s. Indeed, a central theme unifying the hundreds of life histories recorded by Virginia Writers' Project fieldworkers between 1938 and 1941 is that the narrators all bear witness to the vast socioeconomic and cultural changes brought about by the Great Depression and the New Deal's responses to it. These never-published VWP narrative interviews, however, have remained largely unknown and unavailable to readers until now.

Talk about Trouble presents 61 Writers' Project life histories that depict Virginia men and women, both blacks and whites, and offer a cross-section of ages, occupations, experiences, and cultural and class backgrounds. Headnotes set the context for each life history and introduce people and themes that link individual events and experiences. One hundred sixty photographs, most taken in the state by Farm Security Administration or Virginia WPA photographers, add graphic texture and backdrop to the stories and lives recounted.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A fascinating and important book that virtually any student of the American experience will profit by reading.

Journal of American History

A massive and handsome book, fittingly illustrated with Farm Security Administration photographs.

Georgia Historical Quarterly

Their fascinating and valuable contribution is to give voices, faces, and feelings to these typical Virginians surviving troubled times.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

A collection of superb oral histories recalling the harsh reality of surviving during the Depression years.

Roanoke Times

An engaging visit with people struggling with adversity decades ago.

Richmond Times-Dispatch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807845707
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 11/11/1996
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 516
  • Product dimensions: 7.87 (w) x 11.03 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy J. Martin-Perdue has been a freelance writer for twenty years and is currently scholar-in-residence in the department of anthropology at the University of Virginia.

Formerly a geologist, Charles L. Perdue Jr. has a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught in the departments of English and anthropology at the University of Virginia for the past twenty-four years.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
Editorial Commentary and Method 12
Pt. I Narrating Experience: Virginia and Virginians in the Decade of the Great Depression 17
1 Narrating Old Ways and Past Times: Of "Infairs" and "Callithumps" 23
2 Narrating Women's Experience: "Living the Life of a Woman" 60
3 Narrating Men's Experience: "We Meet With So Many Changes" 106
4 Narrating the African American Experience: "Democracy Paid For" 154
Pt. II Making a Living: From Farm to Factory 205
5 Making a Living from the Land: Paid in "Chips and Whetstones" 210
6 Making a Living on the Water: "Takes a Man with a Good Back An' Strong Arms" 251
7 Making a Living in the Trades and Business: "A High Standard of Output" 273
8 Making a Living in Iron, Steel, and Coal: "Of Every Artificer in Brass and Iron" 302
9 Making a Living in Factory and Mill: "Hurrying to Keep Time With Machines" 336
Epilogue: Virginia on the Eve of World War II 360
App. A Selected Listing of Federal Relief Agencies and Programs 381
App. B Supplemental Data on Informants and Selected VWP Interviewers 383
App. C RA/FSA Photographs Taken in Virginia 427
Notes 429
Bibliography 465
Index 475
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