The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the 2023 recipients of its three competitive annual fellowships and awards programs: the Archie Green Fellowships, the Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Award, and the Blanton Owen Fund Award. This year, these three awards went to six projects throughout the United States, whose proposals were reviewed and selected by internal and external panels at the American Folklife Center. Read on for information about the awardees.
Archie Green Fellowships
The Archie Green Fellowships were established in 2010 to honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a pioneering folklorist and labor historian, who championed the establishment of the AFC. The Fellowships are intended to support original, independent field research on the culture and traditions of contemporary American workers and occupational groups. The digital Occupational Folklife Project (OFP) oral history collection is based on AGF fieldwork and preserved in the AFC archive. Interviews from this collection are posted to the LC’s website through P1 and used as the basis of AFC’s ongoing America Works podcast. To date, the Archie Green Fellows have added more than 1,800 substantive oral history interviews to the AFC archive, of which approximately 850 are now available through the OFP portal.
This year, the Archie Green Fellowship panel received and reviewed a diverse and exciting set of applications. After discussion, it awarded funding to these four applicants:
- Retired Foreign Service Officer Dr. Atim George of Mitchellville, Maryland, received an Archie Green Fellowship for her project “Playing the Angel’s Game: Perspectives of Black Foreign Service Women.” She will conduct in-depth interviews with Black Foreign Service workers, both active duty and recently retired. “A frequently overlooked demographic,” she notes, “these women have rich and insightful stories to tell about representing the United States at home and abroad.” The interviews will focus on Foreign Service traditions, laborlore and the cultural artifacts as well as the rituals and stories that define and influence the day-to-day work experiences that make being employed by the US State Department such a unique professional culture.
- Labor and oral historian John McKerley of Fairfield, Iowa, received an Archie Green Fellowship for his project “Links in the Chain: Western Pennsylvania Locomotive Manufacturers.” He will interview Western Pennsylvania’s locomotive manufacturing workers to document these workers’ “half century of struggles with deindustrialization” as well as the “turbulent period since 2017, which saw a proposed plant closing, contested contract negotiations, a strike, and the crisis of COVID-19.”
- “Healing Work in Puerto Rico” will be documented by folklorist Selina Morales of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received an Archie Green Fellowship to interview traditional healers living and working in Puerto Rico, who are important members of the local, national, and global healthcare systems that support Puerto Rican wellbeing. Joined by filmmaker Alexis Garcia, the researchers will “interview traditional healers about their occupation and document their workplaces, their tools and gardens” and “record the critical networks of care that supplement or substitute Western medicine on the island and beyond.”
- Folklorist Amy E. Skillman, Parkton, Maryland, received a 2023 Archie Green Fellowship for her project “Women at the Helm,” which will document the occupational folklife of 20-25 women sea captains. “Whether teaching would-be mariners how to sail, organizing shipmates in a sudden storm, or captaining troublesome crew on a commercial fishing vessel, their stories are about courage in the face of fear, confidence in the face of prejudice,” she writes. Her research will highlight defining moments, personal rituals, and the captains’ tactics that ensure they are being taken seriously in a male-dominated career.
The Gerald E. And Corinne L. Parsons Fund Award For Ethnology at the Library of Congress
The Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons fund was established by AFC reference librarian Gerry Parsons (1940-1995) in honor of his parents Gerald and Corinne Parsons. It enables individuals to come to the Library of Congress to pursue research at the American Folklife Center and other LC divisions with ethnographic holdings. This year, the Parsons Award was split between two innovative projects:
- Ethnomusicologist Everardo Reyes, a PhD candidate at the University of California/Berkeley, received at Parsons Award to pursue onsite research at the Library on the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz, the American Indian Movement, and the use of music and sound in both. In addition to the American Folklife Center, Reyes plans to consult other Library of Congress divisions during his multi-week visit to Washington.
- Dr. Lydia Warren, a folklorist at West Virginia’s Fairmont State University, will use her Parsons Award to support her research on ‘Preserving the West Virginia Hammered Dulcimer Tradition at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.” During her visit, she will explore AFC and Library holdings on hammered dulcimers and hammered dulcimer music.
The Blanton Owen Fund Award
The biennial Blanton Owen award was established in 1999 in memory of folklorist Blanton Owen by his family and friends to support ethnographic field research and documentation in the United States, especially by younger scholars and documentarians. This year, the Owen panel endorsed splitting the award between two proposals:
- New York-based ethnomusicologist Dr. Colin Harte received an Owen award to support fieldwork on the traditional Irish music community in contemporary New Orleans and also research Irish music and Irish and Irish-American music making in Louisiana archives.
- Professional photographer and documentarian Karen Pulfer Focht from Memphis, Tennessee, received an Owen award to continue and expand her work documenting the legendary bluesman Bobby Rush.
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.