Biographies Vera Hall (1902-1964)

Vera Hall
Vera Hall (Adell Hall Ward) at her home in Livingston, Alabama, October 1959. Photo by Alan Lomax. Used with the permission of the Association for Cultural Equity. Alan Lomax Collection AFC2004004_01010472.

Adell Hall Ward, an African American folk singer better known as Vera Hall, was born in Livingston Alabama April 6, 1902. Her mother, Agnes, and father, Efron "Zully" Hall, taught her traditional spirituals such as "Home in the Rock." As a young girl she became well known in the community for her singing. In 1917, Hall married Nash Riddle, a coal miner, and gave birth to their daughter, Minnie Ada. After her husband was killed in a fight in 1923 or 1924, Hall supported herself as a cook and washerwoman.[1] Although she did not become a professional singer, she gained national attention through recordings made by folk song collectors and published by Folkways Records, the Library of Congress, and the Alabama Folklife Association.

Hall was first recorded by folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt, who had been asked to document spirituals as part of a WPA Federal Writer's Project assignment in 1937.[2] Folklorist John Avery Lomax became aware of Hall as a result of Tartt's recordings and then recorded her for the Library of Congress. Alan Lomax also sought her out and made recordings of her in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Recordings of Vera Hall made by John and Ruby Lomax in 1939 are available online as part of this presentation. These include solo performances, as well as songs sung with her cousin, Dock Reed; and with Albert Allison and Jesse Allison Jr. Dock Reed only sang religious music, deeming other types of music sinful, so recordings of the two performing together are of hymns and spirituals. Hall did sing secular songs for the Lomaxes, such as the love song "Carrie," and performed children's game songs such as "Hold the Gate," which she presented with spoken commands that the players might say to each other between the verses.

Byron Arnold, a professor of music at the University of Alabama, recorded Vera Hall in 1945. In 1984, two of these recordings were released by the Alabama Folklife Association on Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy, a collection of folk songs performed by various singers.[3]

In 1948, with the help of Alan Lomax, Hall traveled to New York and performed on May 15 at the American Music Festival at Columbia University.

Hall died in January 1964 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

  1. "Vera Hall," Encyclopedia of AlabamaExternal Link [back to biography]
  2. ibid. [back to biography]
  3. Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy: Historical Alabama Field Recording from the Byron Arnold Collection of Traditional Tunes, produced by Joy Baklanoff, 1984. Two songs on this recording are by Vera Hall and Dock Reed. This audiocassetteis available from the Alabama Folklife Association External Link and includes a liner note booklet. [back to biography]

About this Item

Vera Hall (1902-1964)
Subject Headings
-  Traditional and Ethnic Songs and Music
-  Songs and Music
-  Biographies
Online Format
online text
Biography. Hall died in January 1964 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Additional Metadata Formats

Rights & Access

Rights assessment is your responsibility.

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. There may be content that is protected as "works for hire" (copyright may be held by the party that commissioned the original work) and/or under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations.

Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permission ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the bibliographic information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding items and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact:  Performing Arts Reading Room.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress.

More about Copyright and other Restrictions

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Vera Hall 1902 to 1964. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed September 19, 2017.)

APA citation style:

Vera Hall 1902 to 1964. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Vera Hall 1902 to 1964. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.