Top of page

Category: AFC History

Two head-and-shoulders portraits of the same man

Caught My Eye: “Iron Head” Baker and “The Mighty Blue Goose”

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In or about 1942, Alan Lomax sketched out a draft or proposal for a children's picture book, "The Story of the Mighty Blue Goose." The book, which Lomax planned to have fully illustrated by an artist, was to be based on "The Grey Goose," a song he had recorded for the archive alongside his father in 1934. Lomax credited the singer as the book’s main author: “Iron Head” Baker, a Texas prison inmate and trusty who sang about 60 songs for the Lomaxes. In 1936, Baker was paroled and spent three months collecting songs across the South with John A. Lomax, returning to prison in 1937. Like many of Alan Lomax’s projects, the book appears to have been interrupted by World War II and his departure from the Library of Congress. This is a shame, because Lomax was clearly onto something. "The Story of the Mighty Blue Goose" would have been inspirational on several levels. An homage to African American culture credited to a Black man and his white assistants, it would have been an inspiring children's book and a significant accomplishment in the legacies of the Lomaxes and of Iron Head Baker.

Side by side head and shoulders portraits of two women.

Announcing a New Cohort of AFC Summer Interns

Posted by: Nicole Saylor

The American Folklife Center is pleased to announce the selection of three summer interns who will work on public programs, outreach activities and descriptive access work. One intern comes to us from the Utah State University folklore studies program, and two are supported by the AFC Internship Fund. Hanna Salmon is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research examines how Palestinian storytellers foster affective atmospheres through their performances. Maggie Jones has just graduated magna cum laude from First Nations University of Canada’s Indigenous Languages Program with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics. They have an interest in Algonquian languages, Indigenous oral history, language revitalization, and journalism. Melanie Kimball is earning an MA in folklore studies at Utah State University. Her research interests include supernatural legends, folk beliefs, vernacular religion, and ethnomusicology. Her thesis investigates how people use music as an apotropaic and folk remedy for fear. Since 2017, the AFC Internship Fund has supported 12 paid internships. It was started by a generous donation from the late Peter Bartis, a former staff member. As the American Folklife Center approaches its 50th anniversary in 2026, we are committed to building this fund to help train a new generation of cultural workers.