Folk Art Stories

Folk art and folk music are kindred spirits. Though different in medium, they each  tell the personal and expressive stories of the self-taught artist.

The upcoming exhibit at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft will feature the folk artist and one of the most important American wood carvers of the twentieth century, Elijah Pierce. The exhibition The Essential Elijah Pierce was organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio and will open to the public on February 1st, which is also the beginning of Black History Month.

Pierce was a renowned African-American wood carver, lay minster and barber whose work was, as Pierce believed, directed by God and his pieces were used to tell various stories of the Bible to all who entered his barber shop.

Pierce also carved secular subjects that were historical in theme. Pictured above is his  work,  Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy Brothers (1977). This piece was purposely chosen today in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Huddie William Ledbetter (d.1949) or Lead Belly from Mooringsport, Louisiana was an American folk and blues musician, and multi-instrumentalist, notable for his strong vocals, his twelve-string guitar, and for introducing the songbook of folk standards.

Featured Lead Belly songs:
Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Jim Crow Blues

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 turns 50 this year. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  The passage of the Act ended the application of the racial segregation laws or “Jim Crow” laws that were enacted between 1876 and 1965 in the United States.

The Civil Rights Act was championed by John Kennedy and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson after JFK’s assassination. JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy was also a strong supporter of civil rights. On May 25, 1961, Robert F. Kennedy delivered an idealistic radio broadcast for Voice of America, defending America’s record on race relations to the rest of the world, insisting that “there is no reason that in the near or the foreseeable future, a Negro could [not] become President of the United States.”

Alan Lomax (1915 – 2002) was one of the great American field collectors of folk music of the 20th century. During the New Deal, he and his father, famed folklorist and collector John A. Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs.

African-American Ballads and Folk Songs

Sonny Terry (1911-1986) was a blind American harmonica blues musician from North Carolina. He was known for his energetic blues harmonica style, which frequently included vocal whoops and hollers.

Featured Sonny Terry songs:
Lost John 

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