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American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Launches Podcast ‘America Works’

Jeff Hafler sits in a chair in a hair salon.

Jeff Hafler, a hairdresser from Wonder Valley, California, appears in the series “America Works.” He was interviewed and photographed by ethnographer Candacy Taylor.  Find the photo and interview here. AFC Occupational Folklife Project collection.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is delighted to announce a new podcast:  “America Works.” It is based on our Occupational Folklife Project collection, and tells fascinating stories of American workers. You can listen to a trailer for this exciting new series in the player below:

Listen and Subscribe to “America Works” at this link!


The following text, which describes the podcast in greater detail, is adapted from a press release from the Library of Congress, which you can also see here.

The cover image for “America Works” shows Sarah Fortin at work in the net loft of Reidar’s Trawl & Scallop Gear & Marine Supply, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Fortin was interviewed by Fred Calabretta. The photo is by Phillip Mello. Find the photo and interview here. AFC Occupational Folklife Project collection.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is bringing the voices of workers throughout the country to listeners with “America Works,” a new podcast series that celebrates the diversity and tenacity of the American workforce during a time of economic crisis and transition.

Each 10-minute episode of “America Works” introduces listeners to an individual worker whose first-person narrative adds to the wealth of our shared national experience. On Thursday, September 3, the first four episodes will become available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and at loc.gov/podcasts. A new episode will be released weekly and featured on the Library’s social media channels beginning Thursday, September 10.

“‘America Works’ is a testament to the wisdom, wit, knowledge and dedication of today’s working Americans,” said Nancy Groce, host of “America Works” and senior folklife specialist at the American Folklife Center. “It is inspirational to hear these stories and realize how many committed and optimistic fellow citizens are out there working to improve their communities, support their families and build a better future for us all.”

Each “America Works” episode is based on an interview from the American Folklife Center’s ongoing Occupational Folklife Project, a multi-year initiative to document the culture of contemporary American workers during an era of economic and social transition. Over the past 10 years, American Folklife Center fieldworkers have compiled almost 1,000 interviews from across the country, documenting the experiences of more than 100 professions. More than 400 of these full-length interviews have been made available online.

Listen and Subscribe to “America Works” at this link.

Given the serious economic challenges everyday Americans are faced with during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stories told in “America Works” are a timely reminder of the spirit of the American workforce. The insights of those featured will be added to the historical record of the nation’s library.

Two women sit at a table with fabric and ribbons on it. Through an open door, we see men and boys in the next room.

Detail from a photo showing Lorraine Davis, a homeless shelter worker, working with the women at a family social night where women and girls sew and bead regalia for powwow and the men and boys make drums and drumsticks in the next room. Davis was interviewed by Margaret Mary Miles and Catherine ten Broeke. Photo by Catherine ten Broeke. Find the photo and interview here. AFC Occupational Folklife Project collection.

The first season of “America Works” reflects the occupational and regional diversity that characterize the entirety of the Occupational Folklife Project’s collection. Beginning September 3, listeners can dive into the stories of individuals who provide some of the most essential services to our society. Some of the season’s featured workers include Joyce Vegar of Coos County, Oregon, a home healthcare worker who explains the patience and compassion required to provide a certain level of care for another. Chicago ironworker Sharon Sisson shares an unforgettable tale of how she won the respect of a chauvinistic male co-worker who was harassing her on a job site. Jeff Hafler of Wonder Valley, California, describes what he loves about his work as a hairstylist and beauty shop owner, why customers confide in their stylists and the pride he takes in working in the service industry.

“Having a vocation,” Hafler said, “is often a better guarantee of employment than a college degree.”

About the American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The Center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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