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Initially, only four states involved in the project (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia) focused on collecting the stories of people who had once been held in slavery. Lomax, the National Advisor on Folklore and Folkways for the FWP (and the curator of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress), was extremely interested in the ex-slave material he received from these states.
In 1937 he directed the remaining states involved in the project to carry out interviews with former slaves as well.
The interviewers then turned the narratives over to their state's FWP director for editing and eventual transfer to Washington, D. The administrative files accompanying the narratives detail the information supplied to field workers as well as subjects of concern to state directors of the FWP.For more information about the interviewers, the people interviewed, and the processes of collection and compilation, see Norman Yetman's essay which accompanies this online collection.In 1939, the FWP lost its funding, and the states were ordered to send whatever manuscripts they had collected to Washington.As noted above, he organized the narratives by state, and then alphabetically by name of informant within each state, collecting them in 1941 into seventeen bound volumes in thirty-three parts under the title (Washington, D. The multivolume set and other project files, including some earlier unbound annotated versions of the narratives, are housed in the Manuscript Division and described in the finding aid for the records of the WPA.
Other records relating to the ex-slave project are among the FWP files at the National Archives and Records Administration (Record Group 69.5.5) and are described in the , edited by George P.The published volumes containing edited slave narratives are arranged alphabetically by the state in which the interviews took place and thereunder by the surname of the informant.