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A chance to harmonize : how FDR's hidden music unit sought to save America from the great depression--one song at a time  Cover Image Book Book

A chance to harmonize : how FDR's hidden music unit sought to save America from the great depression--one song at a time / Sheryl Kaskowitz.

Kaskowitz, Sheryl, (author.).


"In 1934, the Great Depression had destroyed the US economy, leaving residents poverty-stricken. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt urged President Roosevelt to take radical action to help those hit hardest--Appalachian miners and mill workers stranded after factories closed, city dwellers with no hope of getting work, farmers whose land had failed. They set up government homesteads in rural areas across the country, an experiment in cooperative living where people could start over. To boost morale and encourage the homesteaders to find community in their own traditions, the administration brought in artists to lead group activities--including folk music. As part of a music unit led by Charles Seeger (father of Pete), staffer Sidney Robertson traveled the country to record hundreds of folk songs. Music leaders, most notably Margaret Valiant, were sent to homesteads to use the collected songs to foster community and cooperation. Working almost entirely (and purposely) under the radar, the music unit would collect more than 800 songs and operate for nearly two years, until they were shut down under fire from a conservative coalition in Congress that deemed the entire homestead enterprise dangerously "socialistic." Despite its early demise, the music unit proved that music can provide hope and a sense of belonging even in the darkest times. It also laid the groundwork for the folk revival that followed, seeing the rise of artists like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Odetta, and Bob Dylan"-- Provided by publisher.

Item details

  • ISBN: 9781639365715
  • ISBN: 1639365710
  • Physical Description: xxiii, 242 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits, music ; 24 cm
  • Edition: First Pegasus Books cloth edition.
  • Publisher: New York : Pegasus Books, 2024.

Contents / Notes

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Subject: Seeger, Charles, 1886-1979.
New Deal, 1933-1939.
Music and state > United States > History > 20th century.
Folk music > Social aspects > United States.
Folk music > Political aspects > United States.
Folk music > United States > History and criticism.
United States > Social conditions > 1933-1945.
United States > Economic conditions > 1918-1945.
Depressions > 1929 > Social aspects.
Genre: Popular music.
Musique populaire.

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Library System: Library Branch Name
Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status  
Conyers-Rockdale Library System:
      Nancy Guinn Memorial Library
973.917 KAS ( Send Text)
310150030121329 NEW-BKS Available
Flint River Regional Library System:
      Fayette County Public Library
973.917 KASKOWITZ ( Send Text)
31022010442744 ADULT Available

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