The Last Archive Unheard

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In 1945, Ralph Ellison went to a barn in Vermont and began to write Invisible Man. He wrote it in the voice of a black man from the south, a voice that changed American literature. Invisible Man is a novel made up of black voices that had been excluded from the historical record until, decades earlier, he’d helped record them with the WPA’s Federal Writers Project. What is the evidence of a voice? How can we truly know history without everyone’s voices? This episode traces those questions — from the quest to record oral histories of formerly enslaved people, to Black Lives Matter and the effort to record the evidence of police brutality.

The Host

Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University and a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she writes about politics,…