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2019 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Links to webcasts and selected materials will be made available online as digital versions become available.

Rhyming the Archive: a Poetry Showcase
Featuring Split this Rock Washington, D.C. Youth Slam Team

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Five young women pose on the steps of the Thomas Jefferson Building.
Members of the Washington, D.C. Youth Slam Team for 2019 of Split This Rock, vist the Library of Congress. Photo by Michelle Stefano.
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June 8, 2019
1:00 to 3:00 PM

Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ 119

As part of its new jam series, the AFC is teaming up with the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center to host a poetry slam with young members of Split This Rock, Amina Fatima, Gelilla Mekonnen, Imanee Magee, Jordan Shaibani, Marjan Naderi, and Takier George. Based in Washington, D.C., Split This Rock "cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets." Each year, the organization serves hundreds of young people and the schools they attend by offering opportunities to write, perform, and connect with a diverse community of socially engaged writers. 

For Rhyming the Archives, the young poets will perform poems they wrote that were inspired by a wide range of recordings, photographs, and field notes from the AFC archives. In the spring, the poets visited the AFC reading room to conduct research into its collections, listening to songs performed by the novelist, playwright, anthropologist, and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, as well as recordings of former slaves in the online presentation Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories, and the oral histories of the Civil Rights History Project.

The name "Split This Rock" is particularly relevant to our program: it comes from a line in "Big Buddy," a poem by Langston Hughes, who was himself a folklore collector.  "Big Buddy" was inspired by "Hammer Ring," one name for a traditional song of which we have many versions in the AFC archive:
Don’t you hear this hammer ring?
I’m gonna split this rock
And split it wide!
When I split this rock,
Stand by my side.

As Split This Rock notes: "the work of writing the poems that split open the injustices in society is in some ways a solitary act, but it is also an act that requires community. Split This Rock calls all of us to split this rock, and to do it together."

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

Black Lives Matter & Music: On Documenting Contemporary Culture

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Book cover for Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection. The cover photo is of an African American woman singing into a microphone.
Cover, Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection, 2018
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019   
12:00 noon to 1:30 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

The 2018 scholarly volume Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection (Activist Encounters in Folklore and Ethnomusicology) collected critical studies which draw from ethnographic research and personal encounters to illustrate how scholarly research and teaching about the role of music in the Black Lives Matter movement can contribute to public awareness of social, economic, political, scientific, and other injustice in our society. Four years have passed since Michael Brown was shot and killed catapulting digital activism from social media hashtags to uprisings in the streets. #SayHerName followed. We said her name: Sandra Bland. We said his name: Eric Garner. And his: Tamir Rice. And hers: Charleena Lyles. Black Lives Matter as a movement has been ardently committed to revealing who people are, but it is also rooted in a concern with revealing how things work. Systematic inequality was the reason for Alicia Garza’s rallying cry for #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 after the acquittal of the killer of the unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin. This panel of ethnomusicologists and contributors to Black Lives Matter and Music look beyond their chapters and towards the present state of the movement to discuss economic injustices, gentrification and cultural displacement, as well as education disparities as enduring kinds of violence. Panelists will also discuss how musicians continue to provide the soundtrack for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Presenters are Dr. Fernando Orejuela, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and Adjunct Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies and Latino Studies at Indiana University; folklorist and ethnomusicologist Dr. Stephanie Shonekan, Professor and Chair of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Alison Martin. PhD Candidate in Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University; and Dwandalyn R. Reece, PhD, Curator of Music and Performing Arts, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
 
Presented with the support of the Daniel A.P. Murray Association.

North Mississippi Homeplace: Photographs and Folklife, a book talk by Michael Ford

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Book cover for North Mississippi Homeplace showing a landscape with a rural  house.
Cover, North Mississippi Homeplace, 2019
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May 23, 2019
12:00 noon to 1:00
Whittall Pavilion, Ground Floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

In the early 1970s photographer and documentary filmmaker Michael Ford left graduate school and a college teaching position in Boston, Massachusetts, packed his young family into a van, and headed to rural Mississippi, where he spent the next four years recording everyday life through interviews, still photographs, and film. The project took him to Oxford (in Lafayette County), as well as to Marshall, Panola, and Tate Counties, to a remote area north of Sardis Lake. His efforts resulted in the award-winning documentary film Homeplace (1975), but none of the still photographs from this time were ever published. With this illustrated volume, those photographs are now available and offer a valuable window onto the rural, local culture of northern Mississippi at that time.

The moving photographs in Ford's new book illustrate his experiences as an apprentice to blacksmith Marion Randolph Hall, his visits to Hal Waldrip's General Store in Chulahoma, a day spent with A. G. Newsom and his crew making molasses, and Othar Turner's barbecues accompanied by traditional fife-and-drum music. They also capture the evocative landscape of the Mississippi hill country and the everyday lives of its residents.

In 2014 the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress acquired Michael Ford's collection of films and photographs documenting grassroots community life in northern Mississippi. The Michael Ford Mississippi Collection includes documentation of music, farming traditions, blacksmithing, molasses making, and other aspects of community life in LaFayette, Marshall, Tate, and Panola Counties, Mississippi, during the early 1970s. In addition to the 2019 book, portions of this material have been published in the film Homeplace (1975). 

This important collection complements existing materials about 1940s musical traditions from the Mississippi Hill Country in the center’s archive. Ford’s material, made three decades later, includes music making but expands to occupational folklore, foodways, vernacular architecture, and other arenas of cultural expression.

Dick Spottswood: A Discographer on the Record

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Dick Spottswood
Dick Spottswood
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May 14, 2019
1:00 to 3:30 PM
Whittall Pavilion, Ground Floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

The renowned discographer, researcher, author, broadcaster, and scholar of folk and ethnic music Dick Spottswood will join us at the Library of Congress to participate in a two-part event in the Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series. The event will feature an interview with AFC staff members about his career and accomplishments followed by a panel with prominent Washington DC folklorists, ethnomusicologists, discographers, and archivists highlighting his numerous contributions to American music.

Among his many other accomplishments, Spottswood is celebrated as the author of the essential Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893-1942, a seven-volume listing of early sound recordings by foreign language and minority groups in the U.S.; the 15-volume LP series Folk Music in America, produced for the Library of Congress to mark the 1976 Bicentennial; and for his research on Caribbean, South American, Bluegrass, Blues, and Country recordings; and his contributions to hundreds of influential reissue recordings by labels such as Arhoolie, Rounder, Yazoo, and Bear Family as well as his own Melodeon and Piedmont labels.

The panel will discuss all aspects of his work, including his experiences as long-time host of the two-hour program "The Dick Spottswood Show" on Bluegrass Country radio WAMU; co-founder of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine; a founding member of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections; and his current work on a new edition of Country Music Sources (2002)

Panalists include: Matthew Barton, Curator of Recorded Sound, Motion Picture and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress; Carl Fleischhauer, Consultant, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (Retired); Maya Lerman, Archivist, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress; Kip Lornell, Professor of Ethnomusicology and History, George Washington University; Jeff Place, Curator and Senior Archivist, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; and Steve Shapiro, Calypso researcher.

This event will be co-sponsored by the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

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Langston Wilkins
Langston Wilkins
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Street Folk: Hip Hop, Car Culture, and Black Life in Houston, Texas, Langston Collin Wilkins, Director, Center for Washington Cultural Traditions

April 24, 2019
12:00 noon  to 1:00
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast Running time 00:58:59

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

View the Oral History with Langston Collin Wilkins and folklorist Nancy Groce Running time 00:29:32

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

"Screw" is Houston, Texas's distinctly local form of hip hop music that emerged within the city’s African American community almost thirty years ago. It is inextricably tied to "Slab," a vernacular car culture in which mostly young African American men spend countless hours and much money transforming outmoded American sedans into spectacular automotive art pieces. In his talk, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Langston Collin Wilkins will discuss how "screw" and "slab" combine to form a unique local tradition that has affirmed and empowered working class Black Houstonians across several generations.

Langston Collin Wilkins is director of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions. He earned his PhD in ethnomusicology from Indiana University. In addition, he served as a fellow for the Folklife and Traditional Arts Program of the Houston Arts Alliance and the Houston Museum of African American Culture where he conducted fieldwork and produced public programs that centered on the traditional arts of Houston’s African Diasporic communities.

Presented with the support of the Daniel A.P. Murray Association.

 

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Jon Kay
Jon Kay
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Traditional Arts and Resilience in Later Life, Jon Kay, Director, Traditional Arts Indiana and Clinical Associate Professor, Folklore and Ethnomusicology

February 21, 2019
12:00 noon  to 1:00
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast Running time 00:53:29

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Elders who practice folk and traditional arts are often celebrated for their work supporting community life and the continuation of important cultural traditions, but rarely do we explore how these practices support elders as they age. Based on more than twenty years of researching folk arts and aging, folklorist Jon Kay explores the ways that traditional arts help older adults find resilience in later life. This presentation centers on how everyday expressive practices help elders combat feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom that beset so many older adults in the United States.

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Portrait of two women and one man. See caption.
Left to right: Susan Galbraith, Tom Jones II, and Roz White
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Black Pearl Sings! Theatrical Reading and Discussion

February 13, 2019
12:00 noon to 1:30
Pickford Theatre, 3rd Floor James Madison Building

View the webcast Running time 01:12:38

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

A theatrical reading of the play Black Pearl Sings! followed by a discussion with actors Roz White and Susan Galbraith from the Alliance for New Music Theater, facilitated by N. J. Mitchell. The discussion will focus on the ways in which the Library’s extensive primary source collections inform creative artistic practice. This performancs was directed by Tom Jones II.

Written in 2006 by Frank Higgins, the play was inspired by the relationship between John Lomax and Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter. Black Pearl Sings! is set in Depression-era Texas and imagines a meeting between a white musicologist from the Library of Congress and a jailed African American woman with a soulful voice and steely spirit. This is an evocative story of how they must work together to fulfill the goals of both these women. Theirs is a journey of race and reconciliation, religion and tenacity, a search for the origins of indigenous folk music, preservation of the musical heritage of a people, and ultimately one of healing and understanding.

Thomas W. Jones II (Director / Writer/ Actor) has directed, written, and performed in more than 200 plays worldwide. In 1978, Tom founded Jomandi Productions, where, as Co-Artistic Director and Producing Director, Tom led Jomandi to become the third largest African-American theatre company in the United States. His work as writer, director, and actor has been acclaimed nationally and internationally. His work has won 15 Washington DC Helen Hayes Awards. He also teaches at the high school and college level.

Susan Galbraith is a director, writer, and actor at Alliance for New Music-Theatre, Washington, DC. She is a playwright, poet, librettist, director and performer.  Trained as both an actress and dancer in styles that include both western and far eastern performance, she has directed and also performed in repertory theatre, new plays, and experimental cross-over forms of dance-theatre. She holds a BFA in Drama and English from Tufts University.

NJ Mitchell serves DC theater community as artistic director, board of director, community talkback coordinator, public programming committee member, drama teacher, facilitator, and panelist. Facilitating theater audience post show discussions, speaking on and participating as panelist on faith, race relations, gun violence, gender and identity topics. NJ is the granddaughter of a pastor, born to a gospel recording artist and professional sports family.

Roz White is a vocalist, actress, motivational speaker, and teaching artist. She starred in and received stellar reviews for her self-penned cabaret Pearl Bailey... by Request. A Washington, DC native, Roz graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Howard University’s College of Fine Arts. As a recording artist Roz has recorded and toured with many artists including gospel music legend Yolanda Adams. Recent theatrical credits include: "Black Pearl" in Black Pearl Sings and "Lady" in Ladies Swing The Blues, written and directed by Thomas W. Jones II.

Presented in Celebration of African American History Month.
Co-sponsored with the Daniel A. P. Murray Association
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A Folklorist’s Tale: Stories of Tangible Culture, Intangible Culture, and the Politics of Culture, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies, New York University. Chief Curator, Core Exhibition, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw

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Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
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January 16, 2019
12:00 noon  to 1:00
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the Webcast Running time 01:22:00

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Oral history with Barbara Kershenblatt-Gimblett by Elizabeth Peterson and Nancy Groce Running time 01:10:45

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Renowned folklorist and scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett draws from her multifaceted career to explore the role of folklore in shaping contemporary cultural discourse. Specifically, she will discuss her experiences as Chief Curator charged with creating the multimedia narrative exhibition at the heart of the recently opened POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. How did she approach blending intangible cultural heritage with tangible cultural artifacts to tell the thousand-year story of Polish Jews in a place where little tangible heritage remains? What were the political and cultural challenges in bringing this history to life? And how did her training as a folklorist influence and shape her curatorial decisions?

 

 

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   June 14, 2019
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