Top of page

Category: Women’s History

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

Hidden Folklorists and Hidden Spirituals on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Our latest podcast looks at three “Hidden Folklorists” from Louisiana with special guest Joshua Clegg Caffery from the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Hidden Folklorists are Becky Elzy and Aberta Bradford, two spiritual singers who had been born in slavery, but who years later sang over a hundred spirituals for collectors; and E.A. McIlhenny, the head of the Tabasco Sauce company, who first collected their spirituals into a book. We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio discs for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1934, with the resulting recordings also coming to the AFC Archive. It’s an amusing story in which the 19-year-old Alan Lomax is forced to leave his father, the seasoned collector John A. Lomax “by the side of the road” and drive 40 miles with the 73 year old Bradford to try to find the 82 year old Elzy so they can sing together for the Library’s recording machine. The episode also presents several of their spirituals, and ends with the very moving recording of two women who had been born in slavery singing “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, got free at last!”

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

Caught Our Ears: Two French Songs from Maine

Posted by: Stephen Winick

In this blog, Stephen Winick looks into the mysterious background of two French-language folksongs in AFC's Maine Acadian Cultural Survey collection, "Fox Henry" or "Faux Henry," sung by Ida Burgoin Roy, and "Chambre et chaînes" sung by Connie Morin Desrosier. He identifies other versions of each song and provides audio, transcriptions, translations, and pictures of the singers.