The Great Depression Interviews

2 Nov

Still from “Interview with Ossie Davis” – The Great Depression

The Film & Media Archive reached a milestone this week in The Great Depression transcript project. All of the original interviews from The Great Depression series are now digitized. There are 148 interviews from the series and the interviewees range from well-known people such as Ossie Davis, Gore Vidal, and Adam Clayton Powell III to previously unknown but important figures—labor organizers, sharecroppers, farmers, political activists, writers, and photographers— who were witnesses to one of the most difficult and political volatile periods in American history. Highlights from the series and interviews include an in-depth look at Henry Ford and his factory, the 1934 Upton Sinclair campaign for governor on the “End Poverty in California” platform, a behind-the-scenes look at New York politics in the 1930s, and many other stories of struggle and eventual success.

Still from “Interview with Paul Boatin” – The Great Depression

This is one phase of a collaborative project between the Film & Media Archive and Digital Library Services. The work of transcribing the interviews and preparing them for the web continues and the goal for the next phase is for all text from the transcripts to be transcribed, edited, and encoded into xml documents that meet TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standards. The end goal is to present an online resource where users can browse the names, or search by keyword across all the interviews. The model for this site is the Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Interviews online resource.

Norma Rydlewski from “Interview with Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh” – The Great Depression

Eventually we hope to make the audio and video available online  allowing researchers the choice to read, listen, or watch the complete interviews. These interviews are a very valuable resource for researchers, and the topic of the series remains relevant today.

Shown here are stills from the interviews. The great actor, Ossie Davis, was interviewed about his experiences as an African-American in the South during the 1930s, and then in New York. Paul Boatin described his experience as a worker at the Ford Motor Factory during the 1920s. Norma Rydlewski was interviewed with her sister, Katherine McIntosh about their mother, Florence Owens Thompson, who was the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic image, “Migrant Mother.”


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