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American Folklife Center Collections: Mississippi

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


Letter of Introduction by Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish. 1942. Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004). Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections from Mississippi document expressive culture from nearly every corner of the state and span nearly a century. Beginning with Lomax family recordings made at Parchman Penitentiary in 1933 and continuing with StoryCorps interviews made today, AFC collections illustrate the rich variety of folklife in this cradle of American creative genius.

Particularly noteworthy are twenty-five years of recordings made by African American inmates at Parchman by the Lomaxes and others as well as similar musical traditions such as Delta blues and fife and drum repertoires in the Mississippi Hill country. The Center also has material culture documentation, vernacular religion, and occupational folklife in its Mississippi collections.

Alan Lomax Collection

The Alan Lomax Collection includes ethnographic field documentation, materials from Lomax’s various projects, and cross-cultural research created and collected by Alan Lomax and others on traditional song, music, dance, and body movement from around the world. Lomax conducted fieldwork in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, England, France, Georgia (Republic), Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain, the United States, and Wales from the 1930s-1990s.

Fieldwork and other activities in Mississippi wove throughout Lomax's long career and included the legendary 1941-1942 fieldtrip to the Mississippi Delta with John Work III and Lewis Jones. The team recorded sermons, tales, and especially bluesmen such as Son House and Muddy Waters. Lomax's autobiography Land Where the Blues Began centers on his experiences in Mississippi.

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.

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In the early 1970s photographer and documentary filmmaker Michael Ford left graduate school and a college teaching position in Boston, Massachusetts, packed his young family into a van, and headed to rural Mississippi, where he spent the next four years recording everyday life through interviews, still photographs, and film. The project took him to Oxford (in Lafayette County), as well as to Marshall, Panola, and Tate Counties, to a remote area north of Sardis Lake. His efforts resulted in the award-winning documentary film Homeplace (1975), but none of the still photographs from this time were ever published. With this illustrated volume, those photographs are now available and offer a valuable window onto the rural, local culture of northern Mississippi at that time.