- 194 years ago yesterday, on December 3, 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. State. Celebrate Illinois by visiting AFC's National Sampler Project site for the state, featuring songs from David "Honeyboy" Edwards and Carl Sandburg, tradition...al Irish music recorded by Captain Francis O'Neill, American gospel and string band sounds, Greek and Mexican music, interviews, storytelling, and other great materials from our Illinois collections. Enjoy!
- Happy December! On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa M. Parks refused give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although she was not the first to resist bus segregation, Parks's o...rganization, the NAACP, believed that she would do particularly well in court. As a result of the bus boycott, Parks, Montgomery, and a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., all became prominent symbols of civil rights.
The American Folklife Center is engaged in an important effort to document and preserve stories of the American Civil Rights Movement. Find out more at the link:
The photo showing Parks and King is from our colleagues at the National Archive; it is a work of the United States Government and therefore in the Public Domain.
- The American Folklife Center celebrates St. Andrew's Day, the official national holiday of Scotland.
Explore Scottish American folk tunes in our California Gold Collection using this link: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/afccchtml/cowhome.html
Listen to Charlotte MacInnes sing "Flow Gently Sweet Afton" clicking on the link below.
- On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison first demonstrated the operation of his new invention, the phonograph. Phonographs originally recorded sound onto tinfoil, and later used cylinders made of wax and other materials. Many of AFC's earliest ...recordings of folk songs are on cylinders, beginning with the very first ethnographic field recordings, made by Jesse Walter Fewkes with Passamaquoddy singers in Maine. Later that year in Boston, Fewkes recorded the following clip, "Mr. Phonograph," to demonstrate the use of his machine to a visiting Passamaquoddy man.
The photo is cropped from a digital scan of a picture in the Library of Congress's Brady-Handy collection. It shows Edison and his second phonograph machine in 1878. LC P&P Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-cwpbh-04044
- Our colleagues in the Recorded Sound Reference Center just placed some of the interviews from their Joe Smith Collection online. The collection is a veritable who's who of the music industry, featuring artists in all popular genres. They ...plan to continue adding to the online offerings as time goes by. AFC especially recommends the interview with Mickey Hart, who was on our Board of Trustees for years, and who has released some of our archival recordings in his Mickey Hart Collection.
- Happy "First Thanksgiving!" Although many people consider the harvest feast celebrated by Massachusetts settlers in 1610 to be the "first Thanksgiving," it was in fact neither the first instance of an annual celebration, nor a "Thanksgivin...g" as that term was understood by the Separatist and Anglican settlers.
Two better candidates for the "First American Thanksgiving" both occurred on November 26. On this day in 1789, George Washington declared the first national day of Thanksgiving following the Revolutionary War and the establishment of our national government. Although it failed to become an annual holiday, Abraham Lincoln chose the same date to establish Thanksgiving in 1863, with the additional announcement that Thanksgiving would occur annually on the final Thursday of November. The holiday has been observed annually since Lincoln's proclamation, but in 1941 we changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November.
At the link below, hear a New Mexico hymn of thanks from the AFC's Juan Rael collection:
This engraving shows head-and-shoulders portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln beneath an eagle and a star.
LC Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-90641 (b&w film copy neg.)
- On this day in 1926, blues performer R.L. Burnside (1926-2005) was born. Burnside, who spent most of his life and career in and around Holly Springs, Mississippi, was recorded early in his career by George Mitchell and others. His first p...erformances on film were recorded by Alan Lomax, Worth Long, and John Bishop in August 1978. These films are part of the Alan Lomax Collection, acquired by AFC in 2004. Burnside continued to perform and record into the 1990s, and became well-known for several recordings with Jon Spencer, which brought him to the attention of celebrity musicians such as Bono of U2 and Iggy Pop, both of whom were influenced by Burnside's music.
At the first link, read more about the Lomax collection. At the second link, see one of the performances from the collection.
This photo is by Phil Wight of Eskbank, Dalkeith, Scotland, and is used under a creative commons license.
- The American Folklife Center wishes you a happy Thanksgiving with a thought about folk traditions: everyone knows about Trick-Or-Treating at Halloween, but did you know that kids used to do a very similar thing at Thanksgiving? Here is a ...picture of "Thanksgiving Maskers" from the Library's Prints and Photographs Division. Thanksgiving Maskers, like Trick-Or-Treaters, used to go door to door, begging for handouts, but they also had other ritual begging activities, including a "scramble for pennies" in the streets. While we're being thankful for what we have, let's also give a thought to those less fortunate--no one should have to scramble for a penny!
You can see more LC photos at the following link:
You can read an account of Thanksgiving Masquerading in a New York Times article from 1899, here:
We will be closed on Thursday, but the Folklife Reading Room reopens on Friday at 8:30 a.m.
- AFC curator Todd Harvey met with Otis Tolbert Jr. in the Folklife Reading Room of the Library of Congress on Friday, November 16. Tolbert is the great-grandnephew of Big Bill Broonzy, and was here for Bob Riesman's lecture on Broonzy's lif...e and music. Todd showed Tolbert some of AFC's Big Bill Broonzy materials, including correspondence, manuscripts, concert recordings, and films. Broonzy was one of the foremost blues performers from the mid 1920s until his death in 1958.
- Don't forget about our Book talk on "I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy," by author Bob Riesman, tomorrow at noon here at the Library. Breaking News: the Blues Foundation has honored this book with the 2013 "Keeping the Blues Alive" award for literature--congratulations, Bob!
Today is the birthday of Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990). Copland created one of the best known arrangements of an archival treasure from the American Folklife Center in 1942..., when he scored the ballet "Rodeo" for Agnes DeMille. He based the "Hoedown" section on a distinctive version of the fiddle tune "Bonaparte's Retreat," collected for the Archive by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax from William Hamilton Stepp in 1937. Most traditional renditions of this tune are 4/ 4 marches, but Stepp almost doubled the usual tempo, converting the tune into a breakdown. John and Alan Lomax published Ruth Crawford Seeger's transcription of the tune in the book "Our Singing Country" (1941). When Copland was composing "Hoedown," his eye was caught by the version in the Lomax book, and he adopted it almost note for note as the principal theme of the section. At the link above, hear Copland's adaptation. At the link below, view the AFC catalog card for Stepp's performance.
- Now that we are back from the Veterans Day holiday, please have a look at the Veterans History Project website, and their latest online presentation, featuring veterans of the Vietnam War. On their site, you'll also find advice on how to interview the veteran in your life and preserve stories of service and sacrifice.
- We hope you all have recovered from the election!
Take a listen to "Goodbye Booze," from 1939, a song about election day and an Ohio mayor who is ousted from office.
From our American Memory collection. Recorded in California, vocals and piano by Charles Fulton.
- Please Join us for our next Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture!
I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, a book talk by Bob Riesman.
November 16, 2012, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building
A major figure in American blues and folk music, Big Bill Broonzy (1903–1958) left his Arkansas Delta home after World War I, headed north, and became the leading Chicago bluesman of the 1930s. His success came as he fused traditional rural blues with the electrified sound that was beginning to emerge in Chicago. This, however, was just one step in his remarkable journey: Big Bill was constantly reinventing himself, both in reality and in his retellings of it. Bob Riesman's groundbreaking biography tells the compelling life story of a lost figure from the annals of music history.
- We are all recovering from election day and election night! Woody Guthrie always had something to say about elections...at the following links, read Woody's writings on the subject from 1940:
Happy Birthday to Roy Rogers (1911-1998). Rogers was an actor and singer who was also one of the most heavily marketed stars of his era, starring in over 100 ...movies and giving his name to a popular restaurant chain. Although he was not a working cowboy, many real cowboys loved his songs and his films. He also sang some real cowboy songs, including "The Night Herding Song," which he performed with his wife, Dale Evans. "The Night Herding Song" was collected by John Lomax from Harry Stephens, a one-time student of his at Texas A&M University, who was also a working cowboy. Years after publishing Stephens's version in print, Lomax reunited with his friend Stephens and made a sound recording of the song for the Library of Congress, which you can hear at the AFC archive. At the link below, hear Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing "The Night Herding Song." At the link above, see the AFC catalog card for the song.
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