America Works, an ongoing podcast series from the Library of Congress, features the voices of contemporary workers from throughout the United States talking about their lives, their workplaces, and their on-the-job experiences. Drawn from hundreds of longer oral history interviews collected by fieldworkers for the American Folklife Center’s Occupational Folklife Project (OFP), America Works is a testament to the wisdom, wit, knowledge, and dedication of today’s working Americans. These engaging oral histories, which have are preserved in the American Folklife Center’s archive, are enriching and expanding America’s historical record.
Kolma “Sam” Ewu, Meatpacking Plant Worker. Beardstown, Illinois
West African immigrant Komla Ewu tells oral historian John McKerley about how he left a prestigious but unprofitable teaching career in his native Togo to pursue the American dream. He talks about how he raised the funds needed to pay his way to the U.S., how he found work on the “picnic line” in a giant Midwestern meatpacking plant – (one of America’s most grueling jobs)—and how grateful he is to be an American worker.
William (Bill) Hatch, Vineyard Owner and Winery Worker. Leesburg, Virginia
Bill Hatch, a farmer, winery work and the owner of Zephaniah Farm Vineyard in Leesburg, Virginia, explains to folklorist Kim Stryker how he transformed his multi-generational family milk and beef farm into a successful winery – and why he loves being part of the wine industry. “Nobody ever asked me about milk and what vintage it was and how did you make it? Nobody ever said: ‘I love your milk!’ but in the wine business, people say: ‘I love your wine!’”
Thomas Sink (Popcorn the Circus Comic). Circus Worker, Professional Clown. Mead, Oklahoma
Thomas Sink, who is better known to his many fans as “Popcorn the Circus Comic,” is interviewed by oral historians Tanya Finchum and Juliana Nykolaiszyn as part of their AFC-sponsored Archie Green Fellowship to document traveling circus workers who for decades have “wintered over” and settled in and around Hugo, Oklahoma. Popcorn talks about how, for more than thirty years, he entertained people, young and old, throughout the Midwest. He speaks about his love of his profession, the rush he would get when audiences applauded his routines, and how his pride of being part of the circus community was balanced by the hardships and challenges of being constantly the road.
Kira Fobbs, Elementary School Teacher. Madison, Wisconsin
Kira Fobbs, an elementary school teacher who has devoted her life to teaching 3rd and 4th graders and Special Ed students in the schools of Madison, Wisconsin, is interviewed by folklorist Mark Wagler. Teaching is one of America’s largest professions, yet the voices of classroom teachers are rarely heard. Proud of her own heritage--which includes African American, Swedish and German-Jewish ancestors--she is an innovative, enthusiastic and dedicated teacher. She speaks poignantly about how her personal experiences have helped shape her teaching career.
Dolores Fortuna, Professional Potter. Galena, Illinois
The respected profession potter Dolores Fortuna, head of Fortuna Pottery in Galena, Illinois, is interviewed in her studio by folklorist Meredith McGriff. Fortuna, whose career includes teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago, talks about how she discovered her love of pottery as a student at University of Chicago. She recalls how she was instrumental in creating cooperative networks and studio spaces for artists in Chicago and Virginia, and how, when she moved to Galena about 20 years ago, she worked with the area’s large community of potters to establish annual “pottery tours.” These tours bring members of the public—who are also potential customers--directly into scores of potters’ studios. She speaks eloquently about what being an artist means to her. As Fortuna speaks, you can hear the gentle hiss of her kiln as it cycles on and off in the background.
Henrietta Ivey, Home Health Care Professional. Detroit, Michigan
Henrietta Ivey, a dedicated home health care professional, is interviewed in her Detroit home by Michigan State gerontologist Clare Luz and her colleague, epidemiologist Khalid Ibrahim, as part of an Archie Green Fellowship documenting the occupational experiences of home healthcare professionals throughout the state of Michigan. Ivey talks about how much she loves her profession and the pride she takes in making it possible for her clients to stay in their own homes safely and with comfort and dignity. She also expresses frustration about the lack of respect and challenging work environments often encountered by home healthcare professionals.
Just a few episodes but I’m loving it!
I’m so pleased to hear stories from regular working people. No matter the job, the work itself has value