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People's University: Appalachian Music & Folklore, African American Influences

September 06, 2016
7:00pm - 7:00pm

Calendar Event Photo

Class 6, September 6: African-American Musical Life in the Mountain State


Though the black population of West Virginia today is very small, from the late 1860s to the mid-1940s the state had experienced an ever-increasing presence of African Americans, particularly in the southern coal field counties.  After the Civil War, blacks moved into the Mountain State to build and maintain the railroads that opened up the coal fields and to mine the coal located in that region.  They brought their music with them: work songs, spirituals, gospel songs, fiddle tunes, and later the blues.  Their presence would draw traveling black tent shows and dance bands to the state, introducing music from New York City and other northern urban areas. Their influence transformed the country music of their white neighbors, most especially in the genesis of bluegrass.


Christopher WilkinsonInstructor Christopher Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Music History at West Virginia University, was on the faculty of the School of Music from 1976 to 2013.  Beginning in 1988, his research focused on African-American music with particular attention to jazz history before World War II.   Research culminating in his book Big Band Jazz in Black West Virginia, 1930-1942 (2013) as well as information assembled for various courses has provided the source materials for this presentation.



Click here to listen to "Roustabout" by Dink Roberts. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia.


RSVP by email or call 304-232-0244.


The People’s University is a free program for adults who wish to continue their education in the liberal arts, featuring courses taught by experts in each subject that enable patrons to pursue their goal of lifelong learning in subjects such as history, philosophy, and literature. There are no grades and patrons are welcome to attend all or only some programs.

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