On the National Mall last weekend, the National Book Festival brought out more than 100,000 readers and book lovers, an encouraging sight. In the History tent, we discussed the Federal Writers' Project and its democratic experiment, and the challenged posed to it in 1938 by the House Un-American Activities Committee under Martin Dies. Douglas Brinkley affirmed the influence of the FWP across decades and literary careers. And we noted the recent passing of Milton Meltzer, a WPA author who went on to write nearly 100 ground-breaking history books and receive the ALA Laura Ingalls Wilder medal in 2001. Meltzer invigorated history books for children with a new sense of America. Meltzer once asked, “What is the relevance of all this history to the young?” And he answered: “Ours is not a past of sweetness and light, no matter what the textbook tells us.”
This weekend Soul of a People events continue in Baltimore and Fairfax, Virginia.