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During the 1930s in the United States, the Works Progress Administration developed the Federal Writers' Project to support writers and artists while making a national effort to document the country's shared history and culture. The American Guide series consists of individual guides to each of the states. Little-known authors—many of whom would later become celebrated literary figures—were commissioned to write these important books. John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ralph Ellison are among the more than 6,000 writers, editors, historians, and researchers who documented this celebration of local histories. Photographs, drawings, driving tours, detailed descriptions of towns, and rich cultural details exhibit each state's unique flavor.
The WPA Guide to Alabama takes the reader on a journey of through the heart of Dixie, from the Gulf coast to the rich Black Belt region and the scenic Cumberland Plateau. First published in 1941, the guide goes beyond the popular images of cotton fields and plantation houses of the old south and brings to light the magic" of Birmingham's burgeoning manufacturing industry, the vibrant university life in Tuscaloosa, and, in Mobile, the cultural diversity of Alabama's port city. The guide includes striking photos of Southern poverty during the Depression.