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American Folklife Center Collections: Louisiana

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of Louisiana at the Library of Congress.


Photographer unknown. Contact sheet with 4 frames of Leadbelly posing with an accordion. Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly), ca. 1942. Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Workers Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The collections of the American Folklife Center include materials from Louisiana that are as varied and rich as the folk traditions of the state. Among its recordings are a treasure trove of blues, Cajun, Creole, and spiritual music; 12 hours of performance and interviews with Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter; and 8 hours of performance and interviews with jazz legend Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. The collections also include recordings of indigenous Chitimacha tales and songs.

The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip

This recording trip is an ethnographic field collection that includes nearly 700 sound recordings, as well as fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States. Beginning in Port Aransas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and ending at the Library of Congress on June 14, 1939, John Avery Lomax, Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center archive), and his wife, Ruby Terrill Lomax, recorded approximately 25 hours of folk music from more than 300 performers. These recordings represent a broad spectrum of traditional musical styles, including ballads, blues, children's songs, cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs. Included are 39 recordings from Louisiana and related materials.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

This talk examines the songs recorded in the summer of 1934 by John Lomax, with assistance from his son Alan, who was then a teenager. While the music they recorded there has often been described as Cajun or Creole music, what they actually found was much more complex: a diverse admixture of old medieval lays, Continental pop songs, blues ballads, round dance songs, traditional ballads in French, a Scottish jig, and much more.

Dr. Josh Caffery is a writer and musician, and a native of Franklin, Louisiana. He is the author of the book Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, a study of the 1934 trip.

Additional Public Programming