Interviewing Ordinary People


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Photo: caption follows

B. A. Botkin. Photographer unknown. Photograph, undated. Courtesy of the National Archives. (208-PU-S-7042-4, box 11).

Most life histories were gathered under the direction of Benjamin A. Botkin, the folklore editor of the Writers' Project. Like many intellectuals of his generation, Botkin was horrified at the rise of fascism in Europe and worried about possible consequences of that trend at home. By assembling occupationally and ethnically diverse life histories, he hoped to foster the tolerance necessary for a democratic, pluralistic community.


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