A reading of the recently declassified FBI file of prominent folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin suggests that his career was powerfully shaped by government surveillance and the midcentury Red Scares. Botkin’s file reveals connections to cultural experiments that fed into his regional miscellany Folk-Say (1929-32) and his work with the Federal Writers’ Project. Considering the tensions between radicalism and repression in the mid-twentieth century allows new insights into the development of folklore as an American discipline and profession.

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