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Hidden Folklorists on the Folklife Today Podcast

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Man and woman, seated, in formal 19th century clothes.
Allan Pinkerton and Joan Carfrae Pinkerton. LC Prints and Photographs Division. For complete information, visit the original here. [//]
Episode seven of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.

Get your podcast here!

Ralph Ellison, photographed in 1960 by a United States Information Agency staff photographer. NARA reference number 306-PSA-61-8989.

In this fascinating episode (we hope!), John Fenn and I, along with Library of Congress staff members Stephanie Hall, Michelle Stefano, and Muhannad Salhi, explore the work of “hidden folklorists,” that is, people whose folklore work is sometimes overlooked because they came from marginalized communities, or were more famous for other activities.

We drew on a lot of previous blog posts to write this episode, which looks at four folklorists or folklore families:

We used a lot of fun and interesting audio in this blog, including incidental music. The full audio for almost all the music and audio examples is available on the Library’s website in the following locations.

First, the audio examples that we mention along the way:

Ledward Kaapana plays guitar in the Coolidge Auditorium. Photo by Stephen Winick

One note: because Ralph Ellison collected the story “Sweet the Monkey” from Leo Gurley in writing and not on an audio recorder, no audio exists for this story.  Because of this, we asked our good friend Solomon HaileSelassie to perform a dramatic reading. As we say in the podcast, the language he used, including mild racial slurs for white people, was the language written down by Ellison, and reflects informal communication between African Americans at the time. We don’t think it’s offensive, but we apologize if anyone does. The podcast includes the entire reading, so there’s no additional audio to serve you here!

Now, on to the incidental music.  We decided to add this to the episode after we recorded our own voices, so we didn’t thank the artists aloud in the episode itself. All the more reason to list them here and point you to their great performances. Many thanks to them for allowing us to record their wonderful music!

Finally, here’s a correction to the podcast: in the episode, I say the Jeannie Robertson recording is from 1953. Although Lomax did record Robertson singing “Jimmie Raeburn” in 1953 as well as in 1958, we actually used the later 1958 recording, so 1958 is the correct date. I apologize for my error!

Comments (2)

  1. This looks like an interesting blog. My one disappointment concerns a too-common oversight seen in the Categories menu: while some nationalities get to be human groups (Russians, Jews, Irish, Japanese), other immigrant groups are occluded by wars the USA fought in their homelands’: no Vietnamese Americans, just Vietnam War; no Arab Americans, just Gulf & Iraq Wars (despite blog links about LoC’s own Syrian-“Cracker” Alan Jabbour). Hoping that evens out.

    • Thanks for your comment. The categories need to be straightened out in many ways. Categories are auto-generated by the system whenever an individual blogger decides to add a category to a post. So if we have a post about the Vietnam war, but not one about Vietnamese Americans, there will be a category for the former but not the latter. It doesn’t mean we don’t consider the latter a category, just that we may not have written about them yet. Since we tend to write abut collections, and especially collections that are online, the ethnic categories will tend to reflect those groups for which we have collections online. Then, too, tagging for ethnic categories can vary by the judgment of individual bloggers: is a blog about an individual who has Arab descent properly tagged as being about “Arab Americans” in a folklife blog where that might tend to suggest it has to do with Arab American folklife? We weren’t consistent enough with how to handle this from the beginning, and now as you note, the categories are fairly haphazard. We apologize for this–it’s actually quite difficult to straighten out because it entails revisiting hundreds of old blog posts and adding or removing categories from them. Using the “Search the blog” feature is a more reliable way to find posts about a given topic.

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