October 15, 2015 Lomax Family Manuscripts Now Online

Presentation Launches with 25,000 Pages of Archival Material

Press Contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302
Public Contact: Stephen Winick (202) 707-1732
Website: Alan Lomax Collection

The American Folklife Center today launched the online publication of the Lomax Family manuscripts, with access to 25,000 pages created primarily by folklorist Alan Lomax during the 1940s and 1950s. . More than 350,000 pages from the 100 archival collections documenting the work of John A. Lomax Sr., Ruby Terrill Lomax, Alan Lomax, Bess Lomax Hawes and John A. Lomax Jr. will become available to the public during the next year.

Researchers will now have online access to the writings of the Lomax family: the field notes, logs and indexes related to these unparalleled collections, as well as their correspondence and their academic and creative writing projects. Resources are accompanied by subject guides to assist researchers as they explore this unique corpus.

Items of note include Alan Lomax’s 1942 field notebook made during his famed trip with a Fisk University team to the Mississippi Delta. In his interview of 29-year-old Muddy Waters, Lomax writes, “Been knowing Son House since ’29. Learned how to play bottle neck from him by watching him for about a year.” In addition, also available are Alan’s CBS radio scripts, voluminous correspondence with scholars such as Carl Sagan and George Herzog and his drafts for the unpublished “Big Ballad Book.”

This presentation of manuscripts complements an array of existing online Lomax materials, including the Library’s disc recordings from Ohio (1938), Michigan (1938) and the South (1939) and the Lomaxes' 1934 recordings from Louisiana (lomax1934.com External), a digital resource from recent John W. Kluge Center Alan Lomax Fellow Joshua Caffery.

In addition, AFC partners The Association for Cultural Equity, the University of Kentucky and Berea College have worked with the center to present Lomax sound recordings, photographs, and videos.

The Library of Congress has enjoyed a long association with the Lomax family, beginning in 1933 with John A. Lomax’s appointment as Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk-Song, and his son Alan’s appointment as “Assistant-in-Charge” of the archive in 1937. During their time at the Library, which ended in late 1942, the duo made long trips through the United States and the Caribbean, documenting American culture in its diverse manifestations. Alan’s dynamic career from the 1940s to the 1990s generated a large archive that the Library acquired after his death in 2002. The children of Bess Lomax Hawes, Alan’s equally accomplished sister, donated her materials to the center in 2014.

With important collaborators including Alan’s father John, Alan’s wife Elizabeth, Pete Seeger and colleagues from other institutions (such as Fisk University’s John Wesley Work III), Alan Lomax was the first to record Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Aunt Molly Jackson and an enormous number of other significant traditional musicians. He also recorded many musicians at the Library, including a landmark series of 1938 recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, which yielded nine hours of music and speech.

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 American Folklife Center 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. For more information, visit loc.gov/folklife/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s first-established federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website, loc.gov.


PR 15-187
ISSN 0731-3527