Description: This little known but historically significant collection documents African American music and language in the Jim Crow South, with a focus on urban and suburban communities rarely documented at the time. The collection of field recordings includes spirituals, hymns, and gospel music recorded by Walter Garwick between 1935-1937 from African Americans at various locations in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia (including St. John's Island), Tennessee, and Alabama. In addition to sacred music, the recordings include Gullah prayers, sermons, tales, Br'er Rabbit stories, and vendors' street cries in South Carolina; spells, remedies, and tales recorded in South Georgia; dialect and folk plays; and some secular and children's songs. The collection should appeal to students of African American culture, history, literature, folklore, education, and religion in the years of the Jim Crow South. In its geographic diversity and cross-sectional, almost random, sampling of the range of musical and rhetorical idioms Garwick appears to have encountered, this collection provides a strikingly different perspective on the sound of the African American south than the impression offered by field recordists who focused primarily on rural settings and teasing out remnants of folkloric genres. The significant number of tracks from Talladega and Hampton are documents of those important institutions but also of idioms of African American vocality that have barely been studied. And there are haunting and remarkable performances scattered throughout this collection that have simply never been heard beyond the small number of archivists and scholars who have ever listened to this collection, and even particular song items that appear, quite remarkably, to be unattested anywhere in the literature on African American music of this era.
Recordings made between 1935 and 1937 by Walter C. Garwick, on behalf of Columbia University, and were aggregated within the “Laura Boulton Collection of Liturgical and Traditional Music” in 1963. Master recordings are on permanent loan to the Library of Congress. All Audio Reproduction Rights and Commercial Rights Reserved by the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. Users may freely transcribe from these materials. The Center is committed to repatriating field recordings in its possession to their source communities and descendants of the performers featured, and welcomes inquiries from descendants of original performers or writers of materials on these recordings or from representatives of the communities or institutions in which they were made