“Now what a time”

An installment in the Library of Congress’s American memory series, “Now what a time”: Blues, gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938–1943 presents approximately 100 sound recordings—primarily African American blues and gospel songs—and related documentation from the folk festival at Fort Valley State College (now Fort Valley State University), Fort Valley, Georgia, in 1941 and 1943.

Song lists made by the collectors, correspondence with the Archive about the trips, and a special issue of the Fort Valley State College student newsletter, The Peachite: Festival number, are also included. Notable in this collection is the topical rewording of several standard gospel songs to address the wartime concerns of the performers.

Also included are recordings made in Tennessee and Alabama (including six Sacred Harp songs) by John Work between September 1938 and 1941. These recording projects were supported by the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture at the American Folklife Center).

War song, performed by Buster Brown in March 1943, can be heard here.

This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here or on the Black studies category on the right to see a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.

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