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News Coverage of Folklife Research for African American History Month

Ten African American singers performing on a stage in nineteenth century dress with an American flag behind them.

Washington Revels Jubilee Voices perform in the Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress, on August 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Here at Folklife Today, we’d like to recognize African American History Month. Of course, we try to honor African American history and culture throughout the year, but we step up our efforts in February. In fact, colleagues throughout the government, including the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. Visit the web portal for African American History Month for more!

The American Folklife Center has also recently received some news coverage for our efforts to research and recognize African American history, which we’d like to tell you about. Last weekend the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published this article about the spiritual “Kumbaya.” In the article, Shelia M. Poole interviews AFC staff members John Fenn and Stephen Winick (hey, that’s me) and even calls me “the folklorist version of Sherlock Holmes” for locating what we believe to be the first sound recording of “Kumbaya” some years ago. She also interviews Griffin Lotson, who did research here and in Georgia, and who helped get the song declared the first State Historical Song of Georgia. We wrote about that research here on the blog. We also did a podcast about it, at this link. And we’ve previously been covered and interviewed by the New York Times, which you can find here.

AFC is also featured in the African American History Month episode of WETA Arts, an arts program on the Washington, D.C.  public television station WETA. The segment focuses on Washington Revels Jubilee Voices, a singing group that performs African American spirituals. The group was featured in our latest Archive Challenge Sampler Concert. You can view the concert at this link. In the WETA segment, you’ll see AFC staff member Jennifer Cutting, one of the architects of the Archive Challenge, helping Andrea Jones Blackford research spirituals in the reading room. One of the songs is–you guessed it–“Kumbaya.” If it’s available in your market, you should be able to view the show at this link.  You should also be able to find more information here.

Once again, let’s take a moment (or a month) to honor African American History. There are many riches to explore in the web portal–find it here!

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