American Folklife Center collections from Alabama document expressive culture from nearly every corner of the state and span nearly a century. Beginning with recordings of a guitarist in Birmingham by John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax in 1934, they continue today with oral histories of Civil Rights leaders such as C.T. Vivian who recounts events in Birmingham during that movement. The collections mirror the expressive culture found in Alabama's diverse communities.
The collection includes recordings from forty-three states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and parts of Canada. They were made from 1941 to 1984, with the bulk being recorded between 1968 and 1982. In some cases, transcripts (and partial transcripts) made by the collectors are available as part of this web presentation. The survey's documentation covers social aspects of English language usage in different regions of the United States. It reveals distinctions in speech related to gender, race, social class, education, age, literacy, ethnic background, and occupational group (including the specialized jargon or vocabulary of various occupations). The oral history interviews are a rich resource on many topics, such as storytelling and family histories; descriptions of holiday celebrations, traditional farming, schools, education, health care, and the uses of traditional medicines; and discussions of race relations, politics, and natural disasters such as floods.
They recording were drawn from various archives, and from the private collections of fifty collectors, including linguists, dialectologists, and folklorists. They were submitted to the Center for Applied Linguistics as part of a project entitled "A Survey and Collection of American English Dialect Recordings," which was funded by the Center for Applied Linguistics and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.
"Many Paths to Freedom" features roundtable conversations among scholars and civil rights movement participants, book talks, film screenings, and concert performances, among other events. The series is a programmatic initiative of the American Folklife Center in collaboration with several Library divisions, and with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is the Library of Congress's partner in the Civil Rights History Project (U.S.).