Top of page

Category: Hidden Folklorists

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Langston Hughes: Experimental Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Langston Hughes is mostly remembered selectively as a “folk” and jazz poet, or author of black vernacular blues and jazz poetry. While Hughes did dedicate himself to creating and reinterpreting these genres throughout his life and career, the core of his work is actually in collecting and experimenting with folklore across spaces and media. In Harlem and abroad, Hughes operated as what scholar Daphne Lamothe calls a “native ethnographer,” adapting his work during and beyond the Harlem Renaissance across genres to the discourses of anthropology, folklore, and sociology in a mode reminiscent of that of sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, civil rights activist, songwriter, and author of the local history book Black Manhattan James Weldon Johnson, choreographer Katharine Dunham, and many others. Specifically, Hughes was an ethnographer of black vernacular culture, transcribing different kinds of linguistic and musical performance and reinterpreting those transcriptions in and as his own texts.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Alistair Cooke: Radio and TV Icon, Hidden Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This article about the broadcaster, journalist, and writer Alistair Cooke is part of a series called "Hidden Folklorists," which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. It mainly details his work on the 12-part 1938 BBC radio series "I Hear America Singing," which was the first time Library of Congress field recordings were used on the radio. It also discusses Cooke's involvement in the Library's recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, and presents the first recordings of his voice, made for the purposes of a dialect study in 1934.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

“The Gal Who Will Use the Recording Machine:” Insights into the Sarah P. Jamali Collection

Posted by: Michelle Stefano

This blog post is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. One of my favorite ways to explore our collections is to leaf through the folders of the correspondence file cabinets in our reading room, where I often come across …

A man in a suit sits in a chair

King David Kālakaua: Royal Folklorist

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

This blog post is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. King David Kalākaua (1836 – 1891) is often known outside of Hawai’i by his nickname, the Merrie Monarch, so-called for his patronage of Hawaiian music, dance, and culture.  He …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford: Spiritual Folklorists

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This blog post about the “Two Sweet Singers” Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. In preparing this post, I was greatly aided by Shane K. Bernard, the archivist at Avery Island in Louisiana, …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Frederick Douglass: “I Am A Man”

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

This blog post is the second of two about the abolitionist Frederick Douglass (celebrating his 200th birthday) and part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. The first post, “Frederick Douglass: Free Folklorist,” is available at this link. The 1850s brought new …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Edward Avery McIlhenny: Spicy Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This blog post about the naturalist, ornithologist, and hot sauce innovator E. A. McIlhenny is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. In preparing this post, I was greatly aided by Shane K. Bernard, the archivist at Avery Island in Louisiana. Edward Avery …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Frederick Douglass: Free Folklorist

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

This blog post about the abolitionist Frederick Douglass is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. This is part one of a two-part article, part two, “Frederick Douglass: ‘I Am a Man,’” can be found at the link. I have often …