Folklife Today tells stories about the cultural traditions and folklore of diverse communities, combining brand-new interviews and narration with songs, stories, music, and oral history from the collections of the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center.
The Green Book and African American Travel with Candacy Taylor
This episode presents an interview with Candacy Taylor, whose latest project is documenting sites associated with the Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Taylor discusses the dangers inherent in travel for Black people during an era where racial discrimination was legal and open racism was common. She fills us in on the origins of the Green Book. We discuss sites such as Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans, where owner Leah Chase slapped the hand of President Barack Obama for adding hot sauce to her famous gumbo, and where she fed a young Michael Jackson her signature sweet potato pies. We also discuss the Historic Hampton House, a Jewish-owned hotel in Miami, where a young boxer named Cassius Clay met Malcolm X and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced his most famous speech. We hear parts of interviews with Enid Pinkney, who restored the Hampton House; Jerry Markowitz, whose parents owned the Hampton House; Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s; and Nelson Malden, Dr. King’s barber in Montgomery, Alabama.
This episode presents an introduction to sea shanties, including a discussion of the word “shanty” or “chantey;” a discussion of the roots of shanties; the history of shanties; the subtypes of short-haul shanties, halyard shanties, and capstan shanties; the importance of the African American and Afro-Caribbean communities to shanties; and the prevalence of women singing shanties. The episode presents six shanties, “Pay Me My Money Down” by the Georgia Sea Island Singers, “Haul the Bowline” by Richard Maitland, “Dead Horse” or “Poor Old Man” by Leighton Robinson, “The Amsterdam Maid” by Charles J. Finger,” “We All Going Ashore” by a group of women from Anguilla, and “Blow the Man Down” by Ship’s Company Chanteymen.
The Peaceful Transfer of Mumming: American Folklife Center 2020 Mummers’ Play
This episode presents the American Folklife Center’s 2020 mummers’ play, “The Peaceful Transfer of Mumming.” Every year, in the week or two before Christmas, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress. The performance is based on traditional mummers’ plays. This year, since we can’t perform our mummers’ play live, we present it here as a podcast episode, like an old-time radio play. “Mumming” is an old word for a tradition of getting dressed up in costumes and going from house to house, doing a performance in exchange for food, drink, and money. In Britain, sometime in the 17th century, it took the form of a particular kind of play which includes music, and dance, and rhymes. In the play, several characters get in a fight, one or more are killed, and a doctor arrives and revives the dead characters. This 2020 mummers’ play features Stephen Winick as Father Christmas, Stephanie Hall as Beelzebub, Valda Morris as Linear Feet, Michelle Stefano as Thomas Jefferson, George Thuronyi as John Adams, Hope O’Keeffe as George Washington, Theadocia Austen as Doctor Dolley Madison, and Jennifer Cutting as Abigail Adams. Accordion music is provided by Jennifer Cutting.
Haunting Songs for Halloween 2020
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick are joined by staff member Jennifer Cutting to discuss and play some of their favorite ballads and songs about ghosts, goblins, fairies, and elves—not to mention the Devil himself. Songs include “The Unquiet Grave” sung by Jean Ritchie; “Polly Vaughan” sung by Albert Lancaster “Bert” Lloyd; “The Three Babes” or “The Wife of Usher’s Well” sung by Isaac Garfield “Ike” Greer and accompanied by Willie Spainhour Greer on a mountain dulcimer; “Bolakins,” also known as “Lamkin” or “Long Lankin,” sung by Lena Bare Turbyfill; “The Stolen Bride” or “A Bhean Úd Thíos (The Woman Of The Fairy Mound)” sung by Séamus Ennis; and “Tom Devil” sung by James Carter, Ed Lewis, Henry Mason, Johnny Lee Moore. All the recordings are from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress, and the hosts and guests talk about the songs, the singers, and the archive.
America Works, Episode 1 - Barbara Miller Byrd, Circus Owner. Hugo, Oklahoma
Barbara Miller Byrd, the third-generation owner of the Carson and Barnes Circus based in the small town of Hugo, Oklahoma, talks about growing up in the traveling circus founded by her grandparents more than 75 years ago. She shares great memories and stories and offers in-sights into the colorful and complex occupations that are needed to sustain a traveling circus in contemporary America.
What’s Inspiring the American Folklife Center Staff During the Virus Crisis
Hosts John Fenn and Stephen Winick are joined by staff members Theadocia Austen and Jennifer Cutting to discuss two initiatives of the American Folklife Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the At-Home Archive Challenge, AFC has been encouraging people to learn or be inspired by material from the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress and to share the results on social media with a tag. For the 2020 Homegrown Concert Series, the Center has moved to an online format with artists recording videos of themselves either at home or on location. The concerts also have an Archive Challenge aspect, as most of the artists have learned material from the AFC archive. The hosts and guests discuss both programs and play musical examples from the challenges and the Homegrown concerts, providing a beautiful cross-section of the music recorded by this year’s artists.