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American Folklife Center Collections: Texas

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

Introduction

Ruby Terrill Lomax, photographer. Lolo Mendoza and Chico Real, with guitars, at the home of Mrs. Sarah Kleberg Shelton, Kingsville, Texas. September 1940. Lomax photographs depicting folk musicians in the Lomax Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

American Folklife Center collections from Texas display the depth of diversity found within the Lone Star State and span over a century. Beginning with the John A. Lomax Cylinder Recordings of American Cowboy Songs recorded between 1906 and 1910 (AFC 1940/022), the collections depict the lives and artistic achievements of the many communities of Texas. Collections of the American Folklife Center cover the vast geographic region that is Texas, and its many communities—through our collections one can conduct research on cowboys, view photographs of the Mexico-United States border, listen to prison songs and southern spirituals from African American and White singers, and study oral histories of Texan Veterans.

Lomax and Faulk, 1940s Collecting in the Lone Star State

In the fall of 1940, John A. Lomax, Sr. and Ruby Terrill Lomax embarked on a two-month field trip from their home in Dallas to Washington, DC. Highlights of the trip included a return to Livingston, Alabama, to record Vera Ward Hall and other singers from that town, and also a stop in Wiergate, Texas to see their old friend Henry Truvillion. The first weeks of the trip, however, incorporated two new elements: the addition of college-bound Bess Lomax and several days at the King Ranch. Lolo Mendoza and Chico Real (at right) were two of the many musicians they recorded.

The following year, John Henry Faulk, under a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation, recorded African American Baptist church services, gospel quartets, and choirs for the Archive of American Folk Song. These field recordings, which also include sermons, hymns, and prayers, illustrate the rich musical history of Texas and elucidates the state of racism in Texas in the mid-20th century. In 1942, Faulk then continued to record work songs and blues by African American prisoners in Sugarland, Texas. More than twenty years later, Bruce Jackson would also record a sampler of work songs, blues, and spirituals sung by African American and white prisoners in the Texas prison system in the summer of 1964 and again in 1965 through 1966.

Collection Highlights

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

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.

Blog Posts & Podcasts

Public Programming

Folklorist and ethnomusicologist Langston Wilkins discusses "screw," Houston's distinctly local form of hip-hop music that emerged within the city's African American community almost 30 years ago. It is inextricably tied to "slab," a vernacular car culture in which mostly young African American men spend countless hours and money transforming outmoded American sedans into spectacular automotive art pieces. In his talk, Wilkins discussed how "screw" and "slab" combined to form a unique local tradition that affirmed and empowered working class black Houstonians across several generations.