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Engaging Collections: AFC Chicago Ethnic Arts Collection Gathering

With 31 digitized AFC collections now online at loc.gov, AFC staff has long been thinking of ways to promote and enhance meaningful uses of them. In the past couple of years, these discussions have focused on the digitized, ethnographic survey collections, such as the Montana Folklife Survey, South Central Georgia Folklife Project, Rhode Island Folklife […]

Homegrown Plus: The Fairfield Four

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with the The Fairfield Four, an African-American gospel quartet that has existed for more than 95 years. Best known for its performance in the […]

Langston Hughes: Experimental Folklorist

Langston Hughes is mostly remembered selectively as a “folk” and jazz poet, or author of black vernacular blues and jazz poetry. While Hughes did dedicate himself to creating and reinterpreting these genres throughout his life and career, the core of his work is actually in collecting and experimenting with folklore across spaces and media. In Harlem and abroad, Hughes operated as what scholar Daphne Lamothe calls a “native ethnographer,” adapting his work during and beyond the Harlem Renaissance across genres to the discourses of anthropology, folklore, and sociology in a mode reminiscent of that of sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, civil rights activist, songwriter, and author of the local history book Black Manhattan James Weldon Johnson, choreographer Katharine Dunham, and many others. Specifically, Hughes was an ethnographer of black vernacular culture, transcribing different kinds of linguistic and musical performance and reinterpreting those transcriptions in and as his own texts.

Caught My Ear: “Sentenced to Death” by Andrew Gallagher

The following was written by Hannah Rose Baker, a musician from Boston, MA, who recently completed an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In 1938, in Beaver Island, Michigan, Andrew Gallagher, known locally as “Andy Mary Ellen,” sang a song called “Sentenced to Death” for Alan Lomax, who was collecting folk music […]

The Legacy of Fallen Service Members and the Kinsugi Gold Stars They Leave Behind

The legacy of a fallen service member is the memory of a grateful nation. We set aside Memorial Day to honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but what comes next? After that knock on the door, after TAPS is played and the folded flag is delivered, how can we pay tribute to […]

Collection of music and dance from New York immigrant groups now available for research

This is a guest blog post by 2018 summer project archivist Jesse Hocking, who is pursuing a master’s degree in library and information studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I grew up in West Virginia and Georgia and spent my undergraduate years in film and ethnic studies, so in many ways the American Folklife Center […]