The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is kicking off 2023 with the much-awaited fourth season of “America Works,” a podcast series celebrating the diversity, resilience and creativity of American workers in the face of economic uncertainty. The new season, launched today, features captivating job-related stories from a range of occupational groups, including a professional wrestler, a cement plant worker, a neonatologist and a grocery store cashier.
The first episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and at loc.gov/podcasts. Subsequent episodes will be released every week on Thursdays through April 27, 2023.
You can read more about the series below, or find more resources alongside the Library’s press release at this link. But, if you just want to jump to the podcast itself, they’ll be at the link below, with the most recent episode on top:
The eight-episode series, part of the American Folklife Center’s ongoing Occupational Folklife Project, aims to introduce listeners to a diverse range of voices and perspectives within the changing American workforce. Each 5-minute episode includes workers whose narratives add to the wealth of our shared national experience.
“Our researchers are sending the Library so many great interviews with workers throughout the United States that it was hard to select just eight for Season 4. Despite the pandemic and a shifting economy, the humor, common sense and pride reflected in these first-person accounts of working in America are inspiring,” said Nancy Groce, host of “America Works.” “I feel privileged to assist the Library in adding them to our national record and to be able to share them with podcast listeners.”
While economic experts predict a full global recovery, employers and workers have faced a tumultuous few years and rising inflation is fueling additional anxiety in many American homes. Given these challenges, the stories told in “America Works” are a timely reminder of the spirit, grit and common sense of the American workforce. We’re very happy to add them to the historical record of the nation’s library.
Each “America Works” episode is based on a longer interview from the American Folklife Center’s Occupational Folklife Project, a multi-year initiative to document workforce culture. Over the past 12 years, fieldworkers from the American Folklife Center have interviewed more than 1,400 working Americans, documenting their experiences in more than 100 professions. More than 850 of these full-length interviews are now available online. Episode descriptions for the fourth season of “America Works” are below, and the links will take you to the full interviews:
Episode 1: Jude Benjarano, a cement plant worker in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, “the birthplace of the American cement industry,” talking about dust, being around huge, noisy machines, and working his way up from “basic shoveling–because you always start at the bottom in a cement plant.”
Episode 2: Tina Moore Braimah, a Certified Nurse Midwife in Raleigh, North Carolina, talking about her training, daily routines, experiences, the rewards and challenges of birth workers who deal “with the boundary of life.”
Episode 3: Luann Miller, a grocery store cashier from West Seattle, Washington, talking about working just about every job there is in the grocery business, from shelf re-stocker to cashier to bagger, and why she loves ‘ringing up’ shoppers with lots of items in their baskets.
Episode 4: Joyce Godbout, a dairy farm herdswoman from Burke in New York’s North Country, talking about the challenges and rewards of working with cows – and why she likes Jerseys more than Holsteins.
Episode 5: Rosemaire Francis-Primo, a home healthcare aide from Brooklyn, talking about her job, daily responsibilities, and being a proud member of Domestic Workers United, an advocacy group representing Caribbean, Latina and African nannies, housekeepers, homeworkers, and caregivers in metropolitan New York. She voices her concern that the hard work done by home aides like her is frequently overlooked.
Episode 6: Mike Williams, a dirt track auto racer at the famed Ransomville Speedway in western New York, talking about his experiences on the track and the enormous amount of preparation, dedication and work it takes to be a racecar driver.
Episode 7: Susan Morelli, a physician and neonatologist from Provo, Utah, explaining how she decided to become a physician and telling a poignant story about a difficult birth and how her spirituality sometimes intersects with her occupation.
Episode 8: Independent professional wrestler Seymour Ray from Bristol, Tennessee (known to his many fans by his professional name, “Ray Idol”) explains how his job is part competitive sport, part entertainment, and part kayfabe. He talks about his two decades as a professional wrestler as well as his earlier non-sports career as a school teacher.
The first three seasons of “America Works,” launched in August 2020, April 2021 and January 2002, respectively, are also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and the Library of Congress website. Listen and subscribe at this link.