In this guest blog, Dr. John Edgar Tidwell, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Kansas, focuses on the critical importance of Sterling A. Brown's work as Editor on Negro Affairs for the Depression-era Federal Writers' Project, and his efforts in the struggle against racial inequality by "authenticat[ing] the representations of Blacks in the American Guide Series travel guides." The response to his work by authorities speaks volumes about the repressive political climate that sought to suppress any research and analysis of societal conflict and injustice such as Brown's. Dr. Tidwell presented a version of these remarks at an AFC symposium in June 2023 to mark the publication of the anthology, Rewriting America: New Essays on the Federal Writers’ Project (2022), which critically examines the FWP on its 80th anniversary. It is most appropriate to publish this blog today, since it was 45 years ago today, on November 16, 1978, that the Library of Congress celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Archive of Folk Song with a day-long symposium featuring, among others, Alan Lomax, song-collector and archivist for the Archive in its early years; David "Honeyboy" Edwards, master blues singer and later a Grammy recipient; and Sterling A. Brown, author, poet, and guiding figure in the FWP.
The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress welcomes three new Presidential appointees to the Center’s Board of Trustees: Sara C. Bronin, Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), Admiral Rachel Leland Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Charles Sams III, Director of the National Park Service. Each appointee …
A June 16th Library symposium entitled Rewriting America: Reconsidering the Federal Writers' Project 80 Years Later will bring attention to the enduring legacy and importance of the archival materials and mansucripts produced by a small army of unemployed writers, historians, librarians, teachers, and others for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the 1930s. The symposium will illustrate how this Library collection continues to inform and inspire public outreach and interdisciplinary scholarship in fields ranging from public and oral history to journalism to ethnic studies and folklore. Dr. Alessandro Portelli will deliver the keynote address, which will be livestreamed. Learn more about the in-person symposium and how to attend, as well as how to attend the livestreamed keynote address, in this blog post.
Sixty-one years ago this month, on February 1, 1961, the “Friendship Nine” – a group of African American college students at Friendship Junior College - adopted an unorthodox tactic termed “Jail, No Bail” during their appearance on trespassing charges in a Rock Hill, South Carolina court. The group had been arrested the previous day for trying to get service at a segregated lunch counter in the city (in other words, they staged a “sit-in”). Rather than paying a fine for violating a public ordinance, as was the norm, they chose instead to serve out their sentence of thirty days of hard labor on a county chain gang. In commemoration of Black History Month, my post today (number 999 in AFC blog history!) reaches into the Civil Rights History Project collection to illuminate this facet of the civil rights era as recollected by veteran activists.