Archie Green, a folklorist specializing in labor-related lore who was a major figure in the establishment in 1976 of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, died March 22 in San Francisco. Green in 2007 was named a Living Legend by the Library.
“Archie’s key role in the establishment of the American Folklife Center makes him a cherished hero to all of us,” said the center’s director, Peggy Bulger.
From 1969 to 1976, Green shelved his academic career temporarily to lobby Congress for passage of the American Folklife Preservation Act, which created the Library’s American Folklife Center. The measure passed Congress unanimously and was signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.
Born Aaron Green in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1917, Green moved with his parents to Southern California as a child. He attended UCLA and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1939. He then worked in the San Francisco shipyards and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
He was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America for more than 67 years and was a journeyman shipwright.
Green earned a Master of Library Science degree from the University of Illinois in 1960 and a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He went on to a distinguished teaching career, influencing many future folklorists. He taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Texas, and held teaching fellowships at several institutions.
As a scholar, Green was best known for his work on occupational folklore and on early hillbilly music recordings. His books included Only a Miner (1972); Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes (1993);Calf’s Head & Union Tale (1996); “Torching the Fink Books” and other Essays on Vernacular Culture (2001); Tin Men, (2002); Millwrights in Northern California 1901–2002 (a monograph, 2003); and Harry Lundeberg’s Stetson and Other Nautical Treasures (2006). Green also published pieces in several magazines and journals.
His most recent publication was The Big Red Songbook (2007), featuring lyrics from six decades’ worth of songs from Industrial Workers of the World’s (IWW) Little Red Songbooks.
Green also worked to initiate programs on workers’ traditions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife on the National Mall. He was a founding member of the Fund For Folk Culture, an organization that supported folklife through research, grants and publications for more than 17 years. In 1995, Green was honored for outstanding achievement in public folklore by the American Folklore Society.
Green has also made contributions to AFC collections, including several reels of labor songs, recordings of his appearances at colloquia and symposia, and a series of interviews about his life and work conducted by AFC folklorist David Taylor.
Information about Archie Green’s receipt of the Library’s Living Legend medal can be found at www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0710/green.html and www.loc.gov/about/awardshonors/livinglegends/bio/greena.html. A piece about his honors at the American Folklife Center Symposium in 2007 is at www.loc.gov/folklife/laborlore/, and the entry in the Congressional Record recognizing him in 2007 is at www.loc.gov/folklife/laborlore/CongRecordPelositributeArchieGreen.pdf .