Books Robert Sonkin (1911-1980)

Will Neal plays the fiddle as Robert Sonkin looks on
Robert Sonkin, right, listens to fiddler Will Neal (detail from a photo of the recording session). Photo by Robert Hemmig, Arvin Camp, California, 1940. AFC 1985/001: P8-p1.

Robert Sonkin was born into an orthodox Jewish family in The Bronx, New York, in 1911. Sonkin, who held degrees from both City College (now the City College of the City University of New York) and Columbia University, founded the speech clinic at City College. He met Charles L. Todd while they were both working in the Department of Public Speaking at City College in the late 1930s. In addition to the ethnographic research Sonkin did with Todd in California, Sonkin also documented the African American community of Gee's Bend, Alabama, where other FSA work was being carried out. After the onset of World War II, he participated in an Archive of American Folk Song-sponsored project to document the man-in-the-street's opinion of the war effort. Like Todd, Sonkin was drafted into the military during World War II, where he served in the Army Signal Corps.

At the end of the war, Sonkin returned to City College, where he retired in 1976 and later became professor emeritus of speech. Todd and Sonkin once again undertook a collaborative project during this period, which resulted in a book titled Alexander Bryan Johnson: Philosophical Banker, published in 1977. Robert Sonkin died in 1980 at the age of sixty-nine.


Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection (American Memory).

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Robert Sonkin (1911-1980)
Contributor Names
Sonkin, Robert
Subject Headings
-  Traditional and Ethnic Songs and Music
-  Songs and Music
-  Biographies
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Chicago citation style:

Sonkin, Robert. Robert Sonkin 1911 to 1980. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed December 10, 2016.)

APA citation style:

Sonkin, R. Robert Sonkin 1911 to 1980. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Sonkin, Robert. Robert Sonkin 1911 to 1980. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.