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March 10: Lamed Shapiro’s Fiction of Violence

Yiddish writer L. Shapiro (Levi Yehoshua “Lamed” Shapiro), who wrote a series of Yiddish stories about pogrom violence that broke with traditional Yiddish satirical stories by presenting dark themes and psychological nuance, was born in the Ukraine on this date in 1878. He was brought to literary attention with the help of Y. L. Peretz, […]

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August 29: The Federal Art Project

The Federal Art Project, an arm of the Works Progress Administration established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in relief of the Great Depression, was launched on this date in 1935. During eight years of operation, it would include within its ranks such iconic artists as Adolph Gottlieb, William Gropper, Philip Guston (Goldstein), Morris Kantor, Lee […]

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March 11: Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats (Jacob Ezra Katz), who transformed children’s literature with his colorful collage-and-ink style and his introduction of African-American children as central characters, was born in poverty in Brooklyn on this date in 1916. His artistic talent was well-recognized by the time he was in high school, but poverty beset him at several junctures […]

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November 8: Jack Levine

Political artist Jack Levine, whose realistic, slightly cartoonish paintings “skewered plutocrats, crooked politicians and human folly,” according to the New York Times, died at 95 on this date in 2010. Levine was a WPA painter and printmaker whose 1937 work, “The Feast of Pure Reason,” showing a police officer, a capitalist, and a politician seated […]

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August 27: The Federal Theatre Project

The Federal Theatre Project, a program of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration that included a Yiddish-language component as well as an African-American theater group, was founded on this date in 1935. The project’s purpose was to give work to unemployed theater professionals and provide cultural enrichment to the American working class. However, the project […]

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May 16: Studs Terkel

Louis “Studs” Terkel, a journalist, historian and broadcaster who transformed “oral history” from a tool of scholarship into a literary technique while documenting the lives and thoughts of working people in America, was born in New York on this date in 1912. Terkel spent most of his life in Chicago, where his parents managed low-end […]

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March 2: Marc Blitzstein

Composer Marc Blitzstein, best known for his anti-capitalist opera, The Cradle Will Rock, and his English translation and adaptation of Bertoldt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, was born on this date in 1905 (as was  Weill in 1900). Blitzstein was a child prodigy who trained with Nadia Boulanger and Arnold Schoenberg;an openly gay […]

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