Keynote Speaker:
Jerrold Hirsch, Truman State University

Jerrold Hirsch, Professor of History at Truman State University, is author of Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writers’ Project (2003) and co-editor with Tom Terrill of Such As Us: Southern Voices of the Thirties (1987) and has widely on twentieth century American intellectual and cultural history, public history, oral history, disability history, African American history, and the South since Reconstruction. With co-editor Lawrence Rodgers, Hirsch recently published a study of the FWP's creative writing, folklore, and oral history projects and working on a biography of B. A. Botkin (America’s Folklorist:  B.A. Botkin and American Culture, 2010)

Hirsch brings a valuable perspective on writing democracy today by drawing our attention to a massive, federally-funded undertaking that serves as one model for the forum, the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project. His Portrait of America: A Cultural History of the Federal Writer’s Project offers a much-needed historical perspective on this Works Progress Administration project. Especially important to our conversations is FWP leader Henry Alsberg’s goals to redefine American culture by embracing its diversity.
Describing the importance of the upcoming conference, Hirsch contends the event
. . . raises issues that the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project addressed seventy years ago and that we still need to address: How well do we     know our country? Whom do we include when we use the word “American”? These are not just contemporary issues but recurring and seemingly permanent questions Americans have asked themselves throughout their history--and     questions that were addressed when, in 1935, the Roosevelt administration     created the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration. Therefore, I would be delighted to participate in your current     efforts to deal with “writing democracy.”