Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2013/Spring/Frank Goldie Moore

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Shoe repair shop, Washington D.C. 1942

This page is connected with English 105 at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories


Frank Goldie Moore was a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He was interviewed by Robert King, a writer for the Federal Writer’s Project, on August 15, 1939. Moore worked primarily as a shoemaker and a factory laborer in many different cities along the East coast.


Frank Goldie Moore was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on September 7, 1879. He was born into a poor family. After leaving school in the third grade, Frank worked for his father and learned the trade of a shoemaker. By his late teens and early twenties, Frank had gained a reputation as a drinker and fighter. This reputation would eventually lead to his accusation of false charges of murder and robbery. However, he was acquitted due his alibi and circumstantial evidence. After the trial, Moore left Raleigh and worked odd jobs in Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Louisville, among other cities until the World War started in 1918. During the war, Moore worked as a labor recruiter, employing laborers to work on the railroads. The job was well paying, he received $150.00 a month and expenses. After the war ended in 1918, Moore returned to North Carolina to work in a shoe making shop and then in the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Manufacturing Company in Winston-Salem. Moore left his job in the factory and became the manager of a shoe shop in Goldsboro. It was in Goldsboro where he met his future wife, Ruth Kornegay. After moving to Clinton, North Carolina and working in another shoe shop, the Great Depression began. Moore was unemployed for 3 months, and then he found a job in Scotland Neck for $15 a week. However, this job did not last and Moore was again unemployed. Then, Moore’s brother in Raleigh hired him temporarily but had to lay him off when business was slow. In Raleigh, the lack of a stable job and Moore’s drinking began to take its toll on his marriage. Moore’s wife began to “derive the greatest pleasure in finding fault with me [Moore] or nagging at me [Moore].” Eventually, she left Moore and even demanded a warrant against him for assault, even though it was untrue. However, his reputation as a troublemaker followed him and Moore was convicted and incarcerated for six months. After the divorce, Moore was once again unable to find a steady job. At the time of the interview, Moore was 60 years old and saw “nothing but poverty staring [him] in the face.” He was unable to continue as a shoemaker because he was not as fast any more on the machines. Moore was able to “get by” working odd jobs.

Social Issues[edit]


Frank Moore’s lack of education proved to be a limitation throughout his life. The United States education system in the late 1800’s was not very effective in teaching the majority of the population. The typical approaches of teaching included “memorization, drill and recitation”. [1] In the late 1800’s, the wealthy children attended private schools and the poor children, such as Frank Moore, attended public school. Many of the poor students did not attend school for very long, as they were needed to work in the factories to help support their families. As seen in Appendix Table 2 of Lingwall’s paper, North Carolina did not have any compulsory schooling laws until 1910. [2] Ineffective teaching methods combined with no truancy laws led many students, including Frank Moore, to drop out of school early and pursue a trade, which limited their options later in life.

The Great Depression[edit]

Another social issue that Frank Moore faced was economic insecurity and poverty due to the Great Depression. The Great Depression started in October of 1929 due to the crash of the stock market and the successive decline of the American economy. “National income was cut by one half…and one-fourth of the workforce was unemployed”. [3] All of the economic success of the 1920’s, disappeared due to the Great Depression. As stated in the article “The 1930’s: Lifestyles and Social Trends”, “for working class Americans and the poor, the situation was worse: jobs were nowhere to be found; many sharecroppers were thrown off their farms; malnutrition and despair were constants”. [4] Laborers and trade workers, such as Frank Moore, were hit hard by the Depression and were unable to find jobs. Frank Moore lost one of his few stable jobs due to the Depression.

Social Security and Welfare[edit]

After the Great Depression, Frank Moore was unable to secure a stable job and lived in poverty. In the interview, Moore did not mention that he was receiving any type of social security or welfare and “saw nothing but poverty staring him in the face.” President Roosevelt instituted the New Deal to provide aid and economic relief to American families. One of the components of the New Deal was social security and welfare. In 1935, the Social Security Act was passed to provide a “Federal system of old-age benefits for retired workers…and a system of unemployment insurance”.[5] One of the programs that was created by the Social Security Act of 1935 was Old-Age Assistance, which “supplemented the incomes of persons who were ineligible for Social Security or whose benefits could not provide a basic living”. [6] Frank Moore should have been supported by this organization; however, the Old-Age insurance program was not in full operation at the time of the interview.

Historical Production[edit]

The Federal Writer’s Project was a program organized by the government during the Depression that hired writers to record the life histories of common people. However, some of the writers of the life histories have come under criticism due to their inaccuracies. The writers that were part of the Writer’s Project may have embellished their stories or used vernacular that was not accurate in an attempt to make them more interesting. As Leonard Rapport states in his article, “people who consider themselves writers…begin to think of themselves as creative writers…They do not want to be court reporters”. [7] However, in this particular interview, the whole article is written as a quote from Frank Moore. Since the article is a direct quote and is in Frank Moore’s own words there are no issues of historical production that are present in this life history.


  1. "The 1900s: Education: Overview." American Decades. 2001.Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2013 <http://www.encyclopedia.com> para. 1.
  2. Lingwall, Jeff, ed. Compulsory Schooling, the Family, and the “Foreign Element” in the United States, 1880-1900. Heinz College Secod Paper. Web. http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/research/372full.pdf
  3. "The 1930s: Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview." American Decades.2001. Encyclopedia.com. 10 Apr. 2013 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>. para. 1
  4. "The 1930s: Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview." para. 1.
  5. Historical Development. Social Security Administration. Web. 10 April 2013.p. 3
  6. Historical Development. Social Security Administration. Web. 10 April 2013. p. 2
  7. Rapport, Leonard. "How Valid Are the Federal Writers' Project Life Stories: An Iconoclast Among the True Believers." Oxford Journals 7 (1979): 6-17. Print.