April 17, 2003 "Sodom Laurel Album" Explores North Carolina Mountain Community
Public Contact: (202) 707-5510
Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
The visual and oral history of a rural mountain community called Sodom Laurel, and one family steeped in the tradition of the area, are the focus of a new book and accompanying CD by Rob Amberg and Sheila Kay Adams, which will be discussed by Amberg at the Library of Congress at 6 p.m. on Monday April 21.
The program is presented by the American Folklife Center and the Center for the Book in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. A book signing will follow. The lecture is free and open to the public.
In the early 1970s, photographer Rob Amberg moved from Washington, D.C., to the isolated mountain area of Madison County, N.C. Seeking to establish a home in what he saw as a simpler place, Amberg searched for a way to make a living as well as a subject for his photography. He found what he was looking for when a photography student, Sheila Kay (nee Rice) Adams, introduced him to her aunt Dellie Norton and her adopted son, Junior. At the age of 76, Dellie was a hardscrabble mountain farmer who was still growing and selling tobacco. She was also a ballad singer and storyteller in a tradition that had been handed down for generations.
Amberg's photographs and accompanying text reveal the shape and form of a changing culture and a people who wrestled with modern social and economic questions even as they remained firmly rooted in the past. The work of an experienced documentary photographer, "Sodom Laurel Album" offers a complex, multi-layered visual and oral history that enriches the understanding of rural mountain life. The accompanying audio CD presents rare recordings by Dellie Norton, Doug Wallin, Sheila Kay Adams and other singers of traditional Appalachian music.
Rob Amberg is an award-winning photographer and writer who works on assignment for non-profit organizations, foundations and publications. He still lives in Madison County.
Sheila Kay Adams is a professional storyteller and musician who is carrying on the musical traditions that she learned from her family. Dellie Chandler Norton (1898-1993) was a much-loved storyteller and ballad singer whose songs were recorded by Alan Lomax and John Cohen. She received a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1990.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. For information about its program, publications, and the activities of its affiliated centers for the book in fifty states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at http://www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/.