About this Collection

Consists of approximately one hundred sound recordings, primarily blues and gospel songs, and related documentation from the folk festival at Fort Valley State College (now Fort Valley State University), Fort Valley, Georgia. The documentation was created by John Wesley Work III in 1941 and by Lewis Jones and Willis Laurence James in March, June, and July 1943. Also included are recordings made in Tennessee and Alabama (including six Sacred Harp songs) by John Work between September 1938 and 1941.

These recording projects were supported by the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center archive). Song lists made by the collectors, correspondence with the Archive about the trips, and a special issue of the Fort Valley State College student newsletter, The Peachite: Festival Number, are also included. One interesting feature of this collection is the topical rewording of several standard gospel songs to address the wartime concerns of the performers. The recordings document what may be the first folk festival organized entirely by and for African Americans. In addition, as Benjamin A. Botkin noted, the festivals presented "an unusual opportunity to forward our war-time program of recording soldiers' songs and other folkloristic and documentary material growing out of the war." This online presentation is made possible by the generous support of The Texaco Foundation.