The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of its three competitive annual fellowships and awards programs: the Archie Green Fellowships, the Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Award, and Henry Reed Fund Award. This year, these three awards went to twelve projects throughout the United States, whose proposals were reviewed and selected by internal and external panels at the American Folklife Center.
Archie Green Fellowships
The Archie Green Fellowships were established to honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a pioneering folklorist who championed the establishment of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and who was awarded the Library’s Living Legend Award and honored in the Congressional Record [pdf]. Green documented and analyzed the culture and traditions of American workers and encouraged others to do the same. Archie Green Fellowships are designed to stimulate innovative research projects documenting occupational culture in contemporary America.
The interviews generated by these projects eventually will be available to researchers at the American Folklife Center and online to the general public through AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project webpage. To date, the Archie Green Fellows have completed more than 1,000 substantive interviews that now enrich the AFC archive. This year, Archie Green Fellowships were awarded to seven projects in six different states:
Vyta Baselice, an independent scholar in Washington D.C., received funding for a documentation project on Cement Workers in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley is a region in central Pennsylvania considered “the birthplace of the American cement industry.” The project will generate approximately 20 oral history interviews and will complement Ms. Baselice’s previous research on the history of concrete and cement in industry and architecture. In her proposal, she notes that although the production of cement and concrete is central to American modernity, few scholars have documented the stories of workers who “quarry the limestone, keep the kilns burning, and package the powder.” This Archie Green Fellowship enables her to document the occupational culture of contemporary cement workers, highlight the multigenerational and multiethnic backgrounds of many cement workers, and also record the experiences of the growing number of women and recent immigrants involved in the industry.
North Carolina folklorist Katy Clune and artist Julia Gartell received funding for their project Fixing, Mending, Making New: North Carolina Repair Professionals. Over the next year, they will interview and photodocument approximately twenty craftspeople and small business owners across North Carolina. They will focus on people who make their living repairing objects, challenging the contemporary dependence on single-use and throw-away items. Cross-cutting the occupational landscape in an innovative way, the researchers will complete oral histories that explore three distinct “repair regions” of their state: urban areas (electronic repair, cobblers, mechanics), coastal regions (fiberglass boat repair, hurricane recovery, beach restoration), and homestead/craft communities (small engine, metalwork, furniture repair). In addition to documenting many trades that are not currently represented in the American Folklife Center archive, the researchers will explore the underlying philosophies that inspire these fixers and menders to carry on their traditional trades in an era where it is often cheaper to buy new than it is to repair the old.
Alana Glaser, a medical anthropologist at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, received funding to document Nurses’ Experiences of Caring at the Veterans Health Administration. Drawing on her substantial experience and contacts in the world of nursing, Dr. Glaser will interview nurses who currently work for the Veterans Health Administration in California, Florida, and Washington, DC. She will ask them to discuss their daily routines, experiences, and career paths, and reflect on what led them into nursing and to working for America’s largest direct-care health provider. The project will include nurses of diverse backgrounds, genders, and training, many of whom have previously served in the military and who see their VA jobs as a civic duty and a patriotic calling. This collection will complement materials in the AFC’s Veterans History Project.
Folklorist Samuel Kendrick and photographer and educator Ellen Kendrick, of Richards, Missouri, received an Archie Green Fellowship for Agricultural Pilots: Crop Dusters in the Rural Midwest. The researchers will collect oral histories from 12-15 agricultural pilots or “crop dusters,” starting with those who service their farm and other farms in their southeastern Missouri community. The “ag pilots” will be asked to talk about their occupation, training, daily routines, experiences, the impact that “following the crops” during the season has on them and their families, and the essential role they play in modern farming.
Folklorist Edward Y. Millar and Niagara University received an Archie Green Fellowship to document The Ransomville Speedway: Stock Car Track Workers in Western New York. Mr. Millar, staff folklorist at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, will document workers involved with the legendary Ransomville Speedway, a dirt track founded in 1958 in Ransomville, New York by Ed Ortiz and a group of local racers known as the Ransomville Slo-Pokes. The Speedway remains a family run enterprise, and is a major source of pride and regional identity in Niagara County and the wider Buffalo-Niagara region. Mr. Millar will interview Speedway drivers, mechanics, ticket sellers, facility managers, maintenance crews, track owners, and concessionaires to document this unique sports-based occupation and local business.
Oral historian Dr. Julie Pearson-Little Thunder and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, received funding for her project on Immigrant Women Artists in Oklahoma. She will document 12-15 professional women artists who have immigrated to Oklahoma to explore how they have reestablished themselves and continued to pursue their art as their occupation in their new environment. She will interview artists involved in both traditional and contemporary arts to discuss challenges, rewards, and the skills needed to adapt and succeed in their jobs. Dr. Pearson-Little Thunder is with the Oral History Research Program at OSU’s Edmond Low Library.
Folklorist Ethan Sharp of Lexington, Kentucky, received an Archie Green Fellowship for Hope for Recovery: Peer Support Workers in Kentucky. Dr. Sharp will interview workers involved in peer support counseling in his home state of Kentucky. In response to the opioid epidemic, the state government and addiction treatment facilities in Kentucky have expanded training and employment opportunities for people in recovery from substance use disorders, allowing them to serve full time alongside clinicians in paid positions as peer support specialists. The project will document this evolving occupation and record the narratives, humor, specialized language, ceremonies, and expressive culture through which peer support specialists define their roles and provide hope to people in recovery.
Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Awards
The Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons fund was founded by AFC reference librarian Gerry Parsons (1940-1995) in honor of his parents. It enables individuals to come to the Library of Congress to pursue research at the American Folklife Center and other divisions of the Library of Congress with ethnographic holdings.
This year, Parsons Awards were awarded to the following three individuals and projects:
Joanna Zatteiro from Albuquerque, New Mexico, received a Parsons Award to expand her research on early cowboy songs, focusing particularly on the Robert Winslow Gordon Adventure Magazine Manuscripts collection at the AFC. Her research will inform the development of an index to early cowboy songs, which is being compiled as part of Ms. Zatteiro’s dissertation research. At present, the Gordon collection is a treasure trove of information which is largely unknown to cowboy music researchers. It contains descriptive notes about cowboy songs, printed sources for song lyrics, and stories from readers providing detailed history and background of songs and their variants. Her research will bring new attention to this under-utilized resource and contribute to a more complete understanding of the development of cowboy songs in the late nineteenth century.
Kristina Gaddy, a writer and researcher from Baltimore, Maryland, received a Parsons Award to conduct research on the history of the banjo related to her book Well of Souls: Searching for the Banjo’s Lost History. She is particularly interested in exploring the historical role of the banjo as a religious object, developing new narratives placing the banjo at the center of African American religious ritual, religion, and spiritual practices throughout the Americas. At the AFC, her research will compare the cultural, historical and musical similarities and differences of African Atlantic banjo performance in numerous collections, including those of Mrs. Nikol Smith in 1941 from Suriname; the Haitian music collected by Herskovits; African American banjo music in South Carolina and Louisiana collected by Lomax, Hurston, and Barnicle; and Herbert Halpert’s collections from Louisiana.
Windborne, a musical ensemble based in Massachusetts, received a Parsons Award to conduct research on Music of Struggle at the AFC. Research by members of the quartet will assist in the development of a new concert program highlighting the rich musical traditions of movements for social change, particularly those of the northeastern United States. Their research will focus on traditional songs with themes of social and environmental justice, human rights, workers’ rights, and political protest. Their findings will be used to develop vocal and musical arrangements for a full touring program, which will introduce items and collections from the AFC to new audiences.
Henry Reed Fund Awards
The American Folklife Center’s Henry Reed Fund was established in 2004 in honor of old-time fiddler Henry Reed with an initial gift from founding AFC director and fiddler Alan Jabbour. The fund provides small awards to support activities directly involving folk artists, especially when the activities reflect, draw upon, or strengthen the archival collections of the AFC. This year, Henry Reed Funds were awarded to two projects:
Bean String Ballad Sing. William Ritter of North Carolina received a Reed Fund Award to organize, produce, and document an event that will be both a ballad sing and a working bee for preparing beans by methods traditional in the North Carolina mountains. The event will be documented on audio and video, and the AFC archive will be offered copies of the documentation. The ballad singers involved include renowned performers Bobby McMillon, Sheila Kay Adams, and Rick Ward. The project is notable for the way it fits within the folkways of the community being documented.
Emma Hayes Dusenbury Project. Nora Rodes, researcher, singer, and high school student from Pittsburgh, received a Reed Award for a project to increase awareness and accessibility of the Library’s holdings related to the noted ballad singer Emma Hayes Dusenbury of Mena, Arkansas, whose prodigious song repertoire and other folkways were documented by John A. Lomax, Sidney Robertson Cowell, Vance Randolph, and others. The project includes the preparation of a scholarly paper and the creation of a performance piece centered on Dusenbury’s songs for scholars, traditional vocalists and musicians, and the general public.
About the Center and the Library
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. For more information, visit the AFC homepage at loc.gov/folklife.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website at loc.gov.