The Delta Folklife Project

The Delta Folklife Project, a project of the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program, focuses mainly on regional folklife traditions which have continued in the delta area of the state, but also includes folk traditions, of ethnic, occupational, and other groups as well. The Delta, which is more of a cultural region than a coherent topographic region, is bounded by the Ouachita and Black Rivers, Catahoula Lake, and the "hills" on the west; loessial bluffs and the Mississippi on the east; the Red-Old River on the south; and the Arkansas line and hills to the north. For this project, the Delta parishes included Morehouse, Ouachita, West Carroll, East Carroll, Caldwell, Tensas, Catahoula, Richland, Madison, Franklin, LaSalle, and Concordia.

The Louisiana Folklife Project was designed for implementation in three phases: 1) an ethnographic overview, 2) field school, documentation, and festival presentations, and 3) a publication. In 1988, the Louisiana Folklife Program began phase one of the Delta Folklife Project by initiating research for an ethnographic overview of the Delta region by Dr. Susan Roach, Louisiana Tech folklorist, and Dr. H. F. "Pete" Gregory, Northwestern State University anthropologist. This research included an historical and cultural-geographic overview that consisted of contextual descriptions of existing folk groups and their folk traditions, a bibliography, listing primary contact persons in each group and community, and a list of community resources.

Phase two of the project included documentation and presentation. Held in summer 1993 and partially funded by a grant from the Fund for Folk Culture, the Delta Folklife Field School provided training and field experience for fifty community scholars in basic folklife documentation techniques. Presentations included the 1994 Louisiana Folklife Festival and subsequent years, a photography exhibit at the Masur Museum of Art in Monroe, and the 1997 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D. C., which featured the Louisiana-Mississippi-Arkansas-Tennessee Delta region, included numerous tradition bearers documented during this project.

In 2012, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve supported phase 3 with publication of this research. Lower Mississippi Delta Initiative funds from the National Park Service enabled publication of Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife, which includes essays, biographies, photographs, and audio and video clips on the Delta's occupational, oral, religious, and traditions, music along with the region's ethnic and cultural group.