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Woody Guthrie: Resources in the American Folklife Center

This research guide focuses on activities such as fieldwork, interpretation, and programming related to the artist Woody Guthrie as documented in the collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.


Woody Guthrie, author. Vote for Bloat. You know you want to! AFC 1940/004: Woody Guthrie Manuscript Collection: Box 3, Oversized; 9 (image 5 of 7). Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.
"How's the skid row section of the poor folks division of the Library of Congress?"

—Woody Guthrie in a letter to Alan Lomax, referring to what is now the American Folklife Center

In March 1940 Woody Guthrie joined the growing chorus of American voices documented in Library of Congress collections. Texan Alan Lomax had met Oklahoman Guthrie in New York City a short time earlier when Alan was scouting talent to feature on his CBS radio program Folk Music of America. Lomax scheduled an air audition in Washington. Already a radio veteran, Guthrie delivered brilliantly with nearly three hours of songs and stories of his life and travels—he was not yet 30!—during the course of which Alan realized that he had found the perfect "everyman" counterweight to his rotating radio cast of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, Aunt Molly Jackson, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, and the Golden Gate Quartet. Woody joined the program in early April of that year in an episode titled "Poor Farmer Songs."

Since that point, the Library of Congress has steadily collected materials relating to Woody Guthrie, almost all of them dated between 1940 and the early 1950s, when Guthrie's creativity was stifled by the degenerative Huntington's disease. American Folklife Center Guthrie collections are comprised mostly of sound recordings, song lyric sheets, and correspondence.

The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.