During the 1930s and ’40s, Alan Lomax and his father John Lomax traveled throughout the American South searching for the work songs, spirituals and folk tales that gave the region it’s unique identity. They met with field hands, prisoners and former slaves, and heard the songs they had been singing for decades, unaware of the sudden craze for jazz and blues music. The rich archive of American music the Lomaxes recorded ultimately set the standard for folk authenticity that invigorated the folk revival of the 1960s. 

In this musical montage of images taken on Alan Lomax’s journeys through the South, we see the fading traditions of the region that Lomax sought to capture. For more on Lomax, read David Yaffe’s article, This Is a Recording, in this week’s issue of The Nation.

Video produced by Frank Reynolds, with images and songs courtesy of the Lomax Collection at the Library of Congress.

Anna Lekas Miller