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A New Piece of History: Alan Lomax’s Lost Notes From Haiti


Alan Lomax records a Haitian drummer during his field trip to Haiti in early 1937. The image is a frame from a moving picture.

There’s been a new discovery and new research into Alan Lomax’s fieldwork in the 1930s! On the John W. Kluge Center’s blog Insights, Antony Stewart, British Research Council Fellow at The Kluge Center, describes a notebook recently discovered by AFC’s Alan Lomax curator, Todd Harvey.  The notebook was used by Lomax during his 1936-1937 field trip to Haiti. Here’s an excerpt of Stewart’s research:


In it, I found a full account of Alan Lomax’s expenses, both official and unofficial, that revealed the extent of the then 21-year-old’s smoking habit, as well as his daily payments to Revolie Polinice, elsewhere described by Lomax as “my professor in Creole and in Haiti, my haggler and my protector, my valet and my companion of all my journeys throughout his world.”

Most striking was a piece of writing, dated December 23rd 1936, that nested in the center pages of the book. These 19 pages documented a trip Lomax made to the Rex Theatre, Port-au-Prince, to watch a play; one that, it appears, he disliked much of. The play, from Lomax’s eyes, was filled with jokes at the expense of the peasantry and their inability to understand the purpose of footwear, (the crowd “howled” with laughter), French-language versions of American pop songs, a complete absence of plot, and a salute to Mussolini in a less-than-subtle endorsement of fascism for Haiti.

Read the full description of this exciting new find at Insights!