{ subscribe_url:'//blogs.loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/folklife.php' }

AFC Launches Season 2 of America Works

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress continues to bring voices of workers throughout the country to listeners with the second season of  our “America Works” podcast. Each 10-minute episode of “America Works” introduces listeners to an individual worker whose first-person narrative adds to the wealth of our shared national experience. The first episode is now available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and at loc.gov/podcasts. Subsequent episodes will be released each Thursday through June 3, 2021.

Woman stands next to a large fishing net that she is repairing.

Sarah Fortin works a net loft in New Bedford, MA. Photo by Phil Mello. Working the waterfront, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Archie Green Fellows Project, 2016-2017 AFC 2016/036: 03906. Library of Congress.

This season of “America Works” reflects the occupational and regional diversity that characterize the entirety of the Occupational Folklife Project’s collection. In the season’s first episode, listeners are introduced to Sarah Fortin, a fish net maker in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of the country’s most important fishing ports. Among other things, Fortin discusses gaining the necessary skillset for her trade and the challenges she faced as a young woman in a largely male-dominated work environment:

There’s been a bit of a struggle here and there with some of the old-timers because they don’t, they’re just not used to seeing a woman that knows as much about the twine and stuff. I’ll get that little, like, ‘Damn, you’re really going for a girl. Like, look at you!’ You know? Stuff like that, but it’s all positive.

Woman wearing a hard hat sits on top of a ladder while holding onto a large group of electrical conduit.

Kim Spicer working a job at the Mondrian Hotel in New York City. Illuminating history: union electricians in New York City, Archie Green Fellows Project, 2016-2017 AFC 2016/035: 03721. Library of Congress.

Other featured workers of the season include Kim Spicer, an electrician and journey wire-woman, and a proud member of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local #3, in Queens, New York. Jennifer Sgro is a nurse practitioner who provides treatment to residents of Chicago for the nonprofit The Night Ministry’s outreach bus, which travels to different low-income neighborhoods every evening. Mike Peabody of Montpelier, Vermont, is a garbage man who also leads the New England community’s recycling program.

These eight new episodes join those from the first season of “America Works,” which launched in August 2020. The first season is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and at loc.gov/podcasts.

In addition to producing the podcast, AFC staff have also been active in recent months adding collection materials to the Occupational Folklife Project site. There are now nineteen individual project collections available, including full interviews, transcripts or logs, and photographs or video (when available). Explore these newly uploaded collections (direct links in collection titles)!

The Green Book: Documenting African American Entrepreneurs: In 2018, independent scholar and documentarian Candacy Taylor received an Archie Green Fellowship to document contemporary business owners and employees who work for more than a dozen still-active businesses that were listed in The Green Book, a historically significant travel guide published between 1937 and 1967. The Green Book listed businesses—e.g., restaurants, hotels, barbershops, taverns, drug stores, and garages—that welcomed African American customers. Only 3% of the 9,500 businesses listed in The Green Book are still in operation and Taylor traveled across the United States to interview their current owners and employees. The interviews explore the histories of these ongoing establishments, their strategies for staying in business, and the business’s current relationships with their changing communities. In addition to checking out this collection, listen to a recent episode of AFC’s Folklife Today podcast that featured a conversation with Candacy Taylor about her work with Green Book businesses.

Personal Home Health Care Aides in Michigan: In 2017, Clare Luz, a gerontologist at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, conducted fieldwork on the occupational folklore of “Personal Home Health Care Aides in Michigan.” Working with fellow MSU faculty members, including the epidemiologist Khalid Ibrahim as well as folklorist Marsha MacDowell and her colleagues at the MSU Museum and Michigan Traditional Arts Program, Dr. Luz documented occupational histories of 28 dedicated personal home health care aides (PCAs) in central Michigan, whose occupational histories, on-the-job experiences, and significant contributions to their communities have been historically marginalized and under-documented.

Fresh Produce Workers in Arizona: In 2015, folklorist Nicholas Hartmann and the Southwest Folklife Alliance in Tucson, Arizona,  interviewed workers involved with the sale, distribution, and transportation of fresh produce that enter the American food supply through the city of Nogales on the United States-Mexico border. For generations, Nogales has been a major commercial hub for the marketing and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Latin America. Hartman interviewed a wide variety of workers—from produce brokers to truck drivers to customs inspectors to multi-generational business owners—involved in the Nogales’ century-old fresh produce industry. The 22 in-depth oral history interviews in this collection also examine how social, economic, and technical changes are impacting life and work along the Arizona-Sonora borderland.

At Home Archive Challenge: Exploring VHP Collections

Hello to potential explorers of the Veterans History Project (VHP) archive! We’re so excited that you’re considering taking part in the American Folklife Center’s newest version of the Archive Challenge. VHP’s collections are nothing if not inspirational, and you are sure to find a wealth of material–everything from epic poems to wartime love letters and […]

At Home Archive Challenge: Active Duty and Veterans Edition

Back near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggested a new challenge to keep folks busy while waiting out the worst at home. The idea was a variation on our popular “Archive Challenge,” in which you base a work of art on an item in our archive. This post suggests ideas for archive challenges that might appeal to active-duty service members and veterans, and sets up a future post about Veterans History Project collections.

Homegrown Plus: Steve Riley and the Riley Family Band

We’re starting a new season of Homegrown Plus with a concert and oral history from the Riley Family Band featuring Steve Riley. Steve is a widely acclaimed master of the Cajun accordion, and also sings and plays fiddle and guitar with his acclaimed band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Steve has two very talented sons: Burke, who was 10 when the concert was recorded, and Dolsy, who was 7. In this concert father and sons perform together in their own backyard, billing themselves as The Riley Family Band. In the oral history interview, I asked Steve about his whole musical history. Find both videos right here on the blog!

Native American Cylinder Recordings at No Depression

As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been working with No Depression, The Journal of Roots Music, which is published by the nonprofit Freshgrass Foundation. They’re publishing a column called Roots in the Archive, featuring content from the American Folklife Center and Folklife Today. Find the series at this link, over at their website! The latest Roots in […]

Finding Uncle Earl-How Searching For My Namesake Led to the Library of Congress

The following is a guest blog post by National Court Reporters Foundation Chair, Early Langley nee Zimpfer. Most individuals arbitrarily assume that I was named “Early” as I was a premature surprise for my parents. The reality is that I came after. I was named after my uncle, Pvt. First Class Earl K. Zimpfer, a […]

Full Circle: From Military Service to Agriculture

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Dachos, a Navy veteran, farmer and beekeeper, who works in ecological food waste diversion and environmental justice. She is one of the participants on the Veterans History Project’s (VHP) virtual discussion panel, “Veteran Grown: Urban Farming.” I joined the Navy in 1989 for many of the […]

Military Veterans Cultivate Agriculture Careers

The following is a guest blog post by Margo Hale, Southeast Regional Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), and moderator of the Veterans History Project’s (VHP) virtual discussion panel, “Veteran Grown: Urban Farming.”  My maternal grandfather left the timber stands of South Arkansas to serve in World War I. When he returned, […]

Summer 2021 Paid (Virtual) Internships at the AFC!

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is happy to open applications for paid summer internships for 2021! In summer 2018, we launched a paid internship opportunity as part of a program established through a generous gift from our late colleague and longtime AFC staff member, Peter Bartis (1949 – 2017). These positions introduce […]

Get Your Daily Dose of Archive Challenge the Week of March 15

Every day next week, March 15-21, at noon Eastern time, you can listen to, and sing along with, a respected musician performing a song from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress. That’s because next week, the American Folklife Center is working with the Daily Antidote of Song, a daily online concert and singalong in which diverse singers lead a single song each day at noon Eastern time. Next week, starting March 15, all the singers will be performing songs they learned from the AFC archive! AFC staff members Stephen Winick and Jennifer Cutting will be there to co-host each day’s Antidote as well. Gallery of images featuring Dom Flemons, Low Lily, Hubby Jenkins, Kumera Zekarias, Steve Winick & Jennifer Cutting, Kevin Elam, and Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer. March 15: Jennifer Cutting & Steve Winick/ March 16: Low Lily/ March 17: Kevin Elam/ March 18: Dom Flemons/ March 19: Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer/ March 20: Hubby Jenkins/ March 21: Kumera Zekarias