This is the second in a series of six posts presenting AFC’s new traveling exhibit Treasures of the American Folklife Center Archive. The exhibit takes the form of lightweight, colorful vinyl banners containing information about AFC, the Library of Congress, and (as the title suggests) some of the treasures found in our archive.
We’ll be putting the banners online, both so our blog readers can see them, and to go on the record with full credit for all the images, which didn’t fit in the banner format. Here, we’re pleased to present the second of the original six banners. To see what the banner itself looks like, see the picture to the left; just click to enlarge. Watch for the others in the coming weeks!
As before, we’re also providing the banner’s content, in a format that’s easier to see, below. The main text of the blog post is the text on the banner. The photo captions are additional information just for this blog.
“Assistant In Charge”
Alan Lomax (1915-2002) was one of America’s most prominent song collectors, folklorists, and ethnographers. His career began in 1933 when his father, John Lomax, became head of the Library’s Archive of American Folk-Song and enlisted his aid. In 1937, after several years of song collecting trips throughout the American South, the upper Midwest, and the Caribbean, Alan became the archive’s “Assistant in Charge.”
Lomax continued to make field trips and create recordings for the Library of Congress until 1942. After leaving the Library, Lomax dedicated the rest of his life to documenting and promoting folk and traditional music. He became an internationally renowned collector, folklorist, author, radio broadcaster, filmmaker, concert organizer, and record producer.
Lomax’s radio programs were among the earliest to present folk music to national audiences. Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Burl Ives were regulars on his show:
Lomax worked closely with folk music icon Huddie Ledbetter or “Lead Belly.” This 1941 letter to Alan and his wife, Elizabeth, provides insights into the artist’s life in New York:
Mexican American girls being recorded for the Library by John and Alan Lomax, San Antonio, Texas, 1934:
In the 1930s, Alan Lomax made several field trips to the Caribbean. Here, Lomax records in the Bahamas in 1935.
On this 1937 disc sleeve, Lomax noted recording 16-year-old Georgia Turner from Middlesboro, Kentucky, singing the “Rising Sun Blues.” It later became famous as the iconic song “House of the Rising Sun”:
Lomax was a prolific correspondent, diarist, and writer. His manuscripts, now in the AFC’s archive, provide information on his famous recordings: