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Gullah/Geechee Collections at the American Folklife Center

The Library of Congress collects and documents living traditional culture. This guide focuses on archival collections relating to Gullah/Geechee culture available in the Archive of Folk Culture.

Introduction

Alan Lomax. Wallace Quarterman, Frederica, GA. 1935. Lomax Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1926, Henry Wiley sang into the microphone of a wax cylinder recorder operated by folklorist Robert Winslow Gordon. At the time Gordon was documenting musical traditions in Coastal Georgia, specifically around the town of Darien. When Gordon became the first head of the Library of Congress' Archive of American Folksong a few years later he donated his collection of 900 wax cylinders as the archive's first recordings.

The performance Mr. Wiley gave was of the Gullah standard "Come By Here," which in time became world famous as "Kum Bah Yah." The placement of this recording in the Library of Congress signaled acknowledgement of Gullah-Geechee as one of the foundational cultures in the American patchwork.

Since that time, Library of Congress holdings from this region have increased significantly. This guide provides information about archival collections at the American Folklife Center that relate to this topic.


More about the Lomax Collection

The photographs in the Lomax Collection were compiled in the course of the work of members of the Lomax family, including John Avery Lomax, his wife, Ruby Terrill Lomax, and his son Alan Lomax, to document folk music and folklore. The photographs not only depict performers and the settings in which they were recorded, but serve to illuminate the documentation effort itself.

View more photos from the Lomax Collection