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Category: Women’s History

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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 We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio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

Motherhood and the Military

Posted by: Kerry Ward

The following is a post about the upcoming Veterans History Project (VHP) virtual discussion panel, “Motherhood and the Military.”  Watch the Folklife Today blog for an upcoming post from Motherhood and the Military panelist Rue Mayweather on May 4th. This second Sunday in May has been set aside for our nation to remember and celebrate …

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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.

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

Katherine Dunham’s Ethnographic Research in the Caribbean

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

Katherine Dunham is perhaps most famous for her influence on modern American dance with the introduction of African and Caribbean dance movement. That work began with ethnographic work in the Caribbean in 1936. Films made during her research have been put online by the Music Division of the Library of Congress in Selections from the …

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African American Art Dolls and Puppets for Identity and Healing

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

On February 18, 2020, the Library of Congress hosted an unusual event, a celebration of African American dolls and puppets sponsored by the American Folklife Center’s Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series. Folklorist Camila Bryce-Laporte and fellow artist, Dr. Deborah Grayson,  presented several artists from Maryland and the District of Columbia. The event also included a wonderful …

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VHP Collections We Love: Janis Nark and the Power of the Pen

Posted by: Kerry Ward

This is the second in a series exploring favorite Veterans History Project collections, chosen by the staff of the American Folklife Center (AFC) and the Veterans History Project (VHP) to be included in our new online exhibit celebrating 20 years of VHP. Each post in the series will offer “love letters” written by AFC and …

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Symbolism in the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Posted by: Stephanie Hall

From the very beginnings of the Women’s suffrage movement, the organizers realized that they needed to use symbolism to help get their message across and make it memorable. This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, as it was ratified on August 18, …

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

AVIATORS WANTED: Training Those Willing to Fly to Fill the Sky

Posted by: Kerry Ward

This is the second blog in a series marking the 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II and will feature an “Aviator Flight Log Book” which will be available during the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in September 2020. If you were offered a chance to learn to fly at little to no cost, …