Table of Contents

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction

Louisiana Folklife: An Introduction, Nicholas R. Spitzer

Folklife Research in Louisiana

Ethnicity, Region, Occupation and Family

Folklife and Public Policy

Public Sector Attention to Folklife in the United States, Archie Green
Folklife and Public Policy In Louisiana
A Folklife Plan for the State of Louisiana, F. A. de Caro
Folklife and Education, C. Paige Gutierrez
Folklife and the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism
Office of Cultural Development: Division of the Arts, Louisiana Folklife Program, Division of Historic Preservation, Division of Archeology
Office of State Museum
Office of Tourism
Office of State Parks
Office of the State Library


1. Resources in Research, Preservation, and Presentation of Louisiana Folklife
2. Doctoral Dissertations/Masters Theses Relevant to Louisiana Folklife
3. Film and Video on Louisiana Folklife
4. Louisiana Folk Music on Sound Recordings
5. Louisiana Festivals -- Traditional and Otherwise
6. Louisiana State Documents Relevant to Folklife
7. Oral History and Folklife
8. Louisiana Folklife Legislation/Louisiana Folklife Commission
9. Louisiana Folklife Survey

A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana

By F. A. de Caro

This essay originally appeared in Folklife in Louisiana: A Guide to the State published by the Office of Cultural Development in 1985. This essay is provided online courtesy of the editor since the publication is out of print.



Though a number of states have folklore societies, and a few states employ state folklorists, and such volumes as Nebraska Folklore and The Folklore of Maine may appear on library shelves, American folklore research has not really seen the state boundary as a significant conceptual unit. Folklorists by and large have been more interested in larger regions, such as the Ozarks or the Southwest, or in very localized traditions, or in ethnic and racial groups, or in the lore of particular occupational pursuits that cut across mere political demarcations. Nonetheless, some individual American states can boast of long and varied traditions of folklore research. Louisiana is one such state. Though interest in folklore within the state has perhaps not been so consistent as in Texas (where the Texas Folklore Society has helped to keep alive devotion to the Southwestern mystique since 1909), nor so intensive as in Indiana (where collecting by Indiana University students has built up a large archival store), Louisiana folklore and folklife have attracted considerable attention. Several major American folklorists have worked within the state; several important literary figures have devoted attention to Louisiana folk materials; one of the earliest (and in many ways still the most readable) books on the folklore of a state. Gumbo Ya Ya deals with Louisiana; and today the state is in the forefront of those where federal and state government are taking an active interest in folk cultural matters. Nor is the reason for such interest difficult to divine: French Louisiana constitutes a vast and unique ethnic region (yet there is great ethnic diversity throughout the state); here we find many of the folk roots of a major American musical art form, jazz; Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Cajun country is one of America's great traditional festivals; the state has received unique cultural influences, such as those from the Caribbean; and of all the states only in Louisiana has there flourished the syncretic Afro-Catholic folk religion (called voodoo in Louisiana and Haiti) which has been common in other parts of the New World. Of course these are by no means the only reasons, but whatever the reasons. Louisiana folklife has been well noticed from eighteenth-century travel accounts to the documentary films of the 1980s.

Travel writings are often a source of information on folklife, and the travel accounts of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that deal with Louisiana are no exception.1 Such works do not, of course, constitute "folklore research," but they indicate an intellectual interest in the subject matter of folklore from an early date. For example, Charles Cesar Robin, who visited in Louisiana in the early nineteenth century, apparently for the purpose of scientific and historical inquiry, recorded a great deal of social information in his Voyages' dans l'Interieure de la Louisiane (1807), including much related to folklore and folklife: Acadian dances, types of boats in use, the construction and lay-out of slave cabins, Louisiana French as spoken by blacks, the costumes of slave women, the dances of slaves and free people of color, vernacular houses and Acadian textiles (Pujol 1939:147-148, 127-130, 489-491, 501-505, 515-516, 515-517, 160-163, 376). Sixty years earlier Dumont de Montigny in his historical memoir in verse had commented on the construction of pirogues and cabins, noted Indian costumes, body decoration, basketry, pottery, ceremonies and medicine, gathered a few legendary place name etymologies, and noticed the capture and eating of crayfish and the folk uses of Spanish moss (Dumont de Montigny 1937-38:44-46, 99-110, 11, 67-68, 107-108). In his negative assessment of the New Orleans Creoles Berquin-Duvalion, who visited Louisiana in 1802, touches on various aspects of urban folklife, including singing, dancing and general socializing, as well as upon Louisiana French and the ethnic diversity of the Crescent City (1806:39-72).

One can cite other travel accounts relevant to folklore, but it is undoubtedly the work of Antoine Simon Le Page du Pratz which has the most enduring ethnographic significance. Le Page came to Louisiana in 1718 and initially worked a grant of land on Bayou St. John, then made his way northward to find superior soil. Early in 1720 he settled near the villages of the Natchez Indians (in present-day Mississippi, but the Natchez ranged into Louisiana and had connections with such Louisiana tribes as the Avoyel and Taensa). He established excellent relations with his Indian neighbors and seems to have taken an intense interest in their society. He took pains to learn the Natchez tongue, though he could have communicated with many of the members of the tribe in Mobilian (the trade Lingua Franca), and he spent much time with chiefs and others, listening to explanations of their world view and way of life. The "chief of the guardians of the temple" in the principal Natchez settlement was a particularly helpful informant, and Le Page sounds almost like a modern folklorist in seeking out this dignitary's account of the traditional history of the tribe:

I therefore applied myself one day to put the keeper of the temple in good humor, and having succeeded in that without much difficulty, I then told him that from the little resemblance I observed between the Natchez and the neighboring nations, I was inclined to believe that they were not originally of the country which they then inhabited; and that if the ancient speech taught him anything of that subject, he would do me a great pleasure to inform me of it. At these words he leaned his head on his two hands, with which he covered his eyes, and having remained in that posture about a quarter of an hour, as if to recollect himself he proceeded to give Le Page the legendary history of the Natchez nation. (Tregle 1975:291-292)

Le Page assimilated much information on the group's myth and religion, festivals and ceremonies, and social structure, which he began publishing in 1751 in a series of articles in the Journal Oeconomique in Paris and published in book form as Histoire de la Louisiane in 1758, Although the reliability of some of his information has certainly been questioned (he was not, after all, a trained observer of culture), his account came to be considered an important early source of information on a significant Southeastern Indian tribe.2

The Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: The Literary Gents

Though these travel books are interesting, and though Le Page's work even approaches a systematic attempt to study culture, one finds no really focused and concerted attention being given to Louisiana folklore and folklife until the last decades of the nineteenth century with the work of two noted men of letters, George Washington Cable and Lafcadio Hearn, sometime collaborators and both devotees of "Creole lore," and the work of less widely known contemporaries such as Alcee Fortier.

History: image 1 0f 2 thumb
George Washington Cable in his New Orleans study. Division of Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress.

Cable was a New Orleans native, born in the Crescent City in 1844, though not Creole but the son of transplanted Presbyterians, a Virginian father and a New England mother. It was to be as a local colorist that he would make his literary mark, and his success at this was due at least in part to the fascination that his native city held for him from his childhood on. In 1893, well after he had achieved a measure of fame, he wrote an article on New Orleans for the children's magazine St. Nicholas, though here we have the adult Cable writing for children, we also see clear glimpses of the child Cable discovering the colorful folklife of the city: "the levee, the sugar-sheds, the shipping, the long steamboat landing ... the fascinating hurly-burly of the steamboat's lower deck, where the black roustabouts laugh and sing while performing prodigious labors;" the Spaniards' and Sicilians' trading luggers moored at the Picayune Pier; "old black women who sell pies and 'stage-planks' (gingerbread) on the landings;" playground games with their half-French jargon; Choctaw Indians selling blowguns and medicinal herbs; the polyglot hubbub of the markets where along with the "pounding of cleavers" one hears "a singing of the folk-songs of Gascony and Italia." In the same article he also suggests an early taste for Afro-American songs, the collection of which were his chief contribution to folk studies. In recounting the "weird, inspiring scene" at a local cotton press, he wrote, obviously referring to himself, "I could tell you of a certain man who, when a boy, used to waste hours watching the negro 'gangs' as' singing lustily and reeking to their waists, they pressed bale after bale under the vast machinery" (Cable 1893).

Cable began to make his reputation with the short stories that were originally published mostly in Scribner's Monthly and later collected as Old Creole Days (1879), and reinforced his literary position with the novel The Grandissimes (1880). Both novel and stories deal with questions of Louisiana culture and cultural contact and conflict. Cable was greatly intrigued by the society of the Creoles, those descendants of the old French and Spanish families, and these works of fiction involve that society, its struggles with the invading Anglo-Americans, and the racial relations that provide an undercurrent of tension. Cable was, of course, an outsider, and the accuracy of his portrait of the Creoles may be called into question. Certainly his opinion of Creole society was am-bivalent and, however much the Creoles may have fascinated him, his Anglo-Saxon, Calvinist background rendered him hardly sympathetic to certain aspects of New Orleans Latin life. His Creole characters were overly proud, lacked public spirit, had loose morals and showed an aversion to work, and this early fiction, widely praised elsewhere, received a chilly reception in New Orleans' French newspaper L'Abeille, and in the Creole community. Cable's use of a dialect when his Creole characters speak English indicates an interest in folk speech but could hardly be expected to appeal to the Creoles, for such use of dialect is invariably linguistic caricature and was seen as making Creoles out as illiterates.

Cable's interest in folklore was primarily a literary one. Folklore has often been seen as quaint, charming, an aspect of local color, and there are bits of folklore and folklife sprinkled throughout Old Creole Days and The Grandissimes such as voodoo, scraps of songs, and the legendary quadroon balls. When he visited Acadiana in 1880 to compile information for the U.S. Census, he took notes on folklore which he might later use in fiction, and the following extract from an addendum to a letter he wrote in 1899 to his daughter shows us a similar intent in collecting folklore, though it also gives us some idea of his methods:

When I was first enjoying the impulse to write stories .,. I took great pains to talk with old French-speaking negroes, not trusting to the historical correctness of what they told me, but receiving what they said for its value as tradition, superstition of folklore. (Bikle 1928:179-180)

He goes on to note how from an old porter he heard the legend of Bras Coupe, the subject of his first, lost story, "Bibi," and later incorporated into The Grandissimes. For his Strange, True Stories of Louisiana, he also dealt with some semi-legendary materials and undertook what we would today call oral history research.

In his biography of Cable, Arlin Turner gives an account of the development of the two essays that represent Cable's principal contribution to folk studies, "Creole Slave Songs" and "The Dance in Place Congo," both published in Century in 1886. By the 1880s Cable had conceived strong sympathies for the American Negro. Turner suggests that Place Congo, where prior to 1843 New Orleans slaves were allowed to congregate and dance, appealed to Cable's imagination:

In Cable's imagination the turf of the old square had absorbed a history extending back to the time when Bienville had designated it, then outside the back palisade of the city, as a meeting place for the slaves. He saw it as the epitome of the sorrow and suffering, the joys and hopes, the longing and resignation of those who had frequented it through a century and a half. (Turner 1966:229)

Cable had collected his Creole songs (by which term he meant those originally sung by the black slaves of the Creoles in their own Afro-French dialect) from a variety of sources, including other collectors, such as Alexander Dimitry, though certainly Cable collected some in the field. He was not the first to print such songs and in fact drew upon Slave Songs of the United States, published in 1867 and containing several Creole songs from St. James Parish. Originally there was to have been a collaboration with Henry Edward Krehbiel, music critic for the New York Tribune and one time New Orleans resident, on a small volume of songs, but Krehbiel dropped out of the project (though he later published Negro American Folksongs, which included Creole songs, and he is listed as arranger tor several of the songs in the Century article). Lafcadio Hearn also assisted, for both he and Cable were interested not only in the songs but also in the patois in which they were sung, and part of one article is devoted to the language of the songs. The articles are significant basically as collections (together they contain over a dozen texts), for though Cable's commentary is interesting, much of it is rather general and speculative. His discussion of the Congo Square dances is an imaginative reconstruction based on the songs and West Indian sources (he claims that he was "a few years ago" invited to witness the same dances, but declined), and he provides a rather romantic framework for his commentary, though there is also some attempt to put the songs in sociohistorical perspective. In all he includes dance songs, "dirges," narrative songs, a voodoo song from Hearn, love songs and a work chant, with some English translations.3

History: image 1 0f 2 thumb
Lafcadio Hearn. Library of Congress.

In some ways Lafcadio Hearn provided an odd contrast to Cable, who maintained a solid middle-class existence and soberly retained his position as accountant and Cotton Exchange official until he could finally support himself by writing; eccentric Hearn seemed always to have one foot in some demi-monde on the edge of respectable society, existing in cheap rooming houses and frequenting strange characters. Where Hearn was a sensualist, frankly interested in sex and other "unhealthy" topics, Cable was something of a puritan (and once lost a job as reporter for the New Orleans Picayune in part because he could not, on moral grounds, go to the theatre to report on a play). Yet the two men interacted, cooperated, became friends, if their relationship was at times an uneasy one. Hearn got the idea for his only Louisiana novel, Chita (1889), from a tale Cable told him of a devastating Gulf Coast hurricane, and there was their mutual interest in Creole French and Creole folksongs. Hearn praised Cable's books in reviews, and Cable helped Hearn place his articles with magazines. But Hearn is of interest to folklorists not merely because of his association with the famed local colorist and from a folklore perspective is really a more important figure than Cable.

Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 of an Irish father and Greek mother, was educated in Ireland, France and England, made his way to America, spent an impoverished time on the New York streets, and finally in 1872 arrived in Cincinnati where he found work as a journalist for the Inquirer and Commercial. In 1877 he was sent to cover a political story; he stayed and the city was to remain his home for the next ten years. He was attracted by its tropical ambience and its aura of romance, and in these fascinations we also see the attraction that folklore, not only Louisiana folklore, had for Hearn. He was temperamentally drawn to the exotic, the unusual, the bizarre, sometimes the morbid. In folklore he sensed the aromas of strange cultures and felt the rhythms of romantic ways of life. While still in Cincinnati he published a remarkable small collection of Afro-American songs; but in the context of his intense interest in the subculture of the levee, the "grotesquely picturesque roustabout life" (Goodman 1949:216) of the riverfront districts. He is perhaps best remembered as an interpreter of Japan to the West (he spent the last fifteen years of his life in Japan) and his works about that country are full of exotic Eastern lore. Even while in New Orleans he managed to put together a small personal library of folklore volumes and published a book relevant to Chinese folklore, Some Chinese Ghosts (1887), as well as Stray Leaves from Strange Literature (1884), which includes excerpts from the Finnish epic Kalevala and Jewish and Asiatic folk literatures.

Hearn devoted two books to Louisiana folklore. Gumbo Zhebes: Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs came out in 1885, a slim volume of only forty-two pages, containing 352 proverbs and copious linguistic, comparative and, occasionally, contextual notes. Only fifty one of the proverbs were collected in Louisiana (he drew on printed collections from several French tropical colonies and former colonies), but the compiler notes which proverbs from other places he has found to be current in Louisiana also, and with his little book Hearn succeeds in tying Louisiana folklore to a larger Creole-speaking world. In his introduction, he sagely notes how often the exact meaning of a j proverb depends upon particular applications and how Afro-Americans show particular skill at the fondness for traditional aphorisms. La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes (also 1885) was probably hardly thought of as a contribution to folklore by Hearn (and in fact he published it anonymously, though he had stated in newspaper columns that he desired to edit a cookbook). However, this volume stands as an important contribution to our knowledge of nineteenth century New Orleans ethnocuisine. It includes not only a wealth of traditional recipes, but also "household hints," selections from Gombo Zhebes, a few street cries, and several of Hearn's newspaper woodcuts of New Orleans street life. Another book, Two Years in the French West Indies (1890), complements his interest in Louisiana folklore and culture, for in those islands he found an Afro-French world not unlike that which he had left in 1887.

In his newspaper and magazine writings there are other contributions to the subject of Louisiana folklore. Making his living as a journalist, Hearn wrote innumerable pieces for the New Orleans Item, Democrat, and Times-Democrat and for Harper's Weekly and the Century. Most of the newspaper articles are extremely short and there are too many to discuss here in any detail, but a folklore sampling includes several columns devoted to New Orleans street cries (French and English), recipes for gumbo, a Creole folksong; there are longer articles on Creole French (which include snatches of song), and accounts of the amazing Filipino stilt settlement on Lake Borgne and of New Orleans ethnic groups. His writings on voodoo stretch over a period of several years. In June 1879 he wrote of collecting a voodoo chant from "one of the sable priestesses of this black Eleusis" (perhaps Marie Laveau, whom Hearn is said to have known and interviewed); in March of the same year he had written of a particular instance of "voodoo charms." In 1885 Harper's Weekly published his portrait of the famed voodoo doctor Doctor John, who had recently died and whom Hearn termed "The Last of the Voodoos." In 1885 "New Orleans superstitions" appeared in the same journal, an account of Afro-New Orleanian magical practices and beliefs in which he draws a careful distinction between voodoo as a cult and voodoo as a term for superstitious practices, a difference some other commentators have failed to see.4 Certainly a full study of Hearn as a folklorist would be a fruitful project.5

Because of their prominence as American literary figures, Cable and Hearn are perhaps thought of as the chief nineteenth-century interpreters of Louisiana French lore, but in fact their contemporary Alcee Fortier was a more exacting scholar in the modern sense of that term. He was one of a number of learned Louisianians of Creole ancestry who contributed to lively intellectual life in the New Orleans of their day, and he was not the only one interested in folklore or related areas. Alfred Mercier, poet, essayist, novelist, a founder of L'Athenee Louisianais (dedicated to the appreciation of French culture), wrote an important early essay on Louisiana Creole, "the first article devoted solely" to the subject, and he also published Creole folktales in the columns of the bilingual newspaper Le Meschacebe (Oukada 1979:12). (Mercier's novel, L'Habitation St. Ybars (1881), is of considerable linguistic and folkloric interest and the subject of a recent paper by George Reinecke (1980). Others interested in folklore include Mme. Sidonie de la Houssaye, who provided Cable with traditional materials she had collected, and Henry C. Castellanos, jurist and social historian, son of a Spaniard, who had emigrated to New Orleans in 1816, included in his New Orleans as It was: Episodes of Louisiana Life (1895), an assortment of social lore and a chapter on voodoo. Of Alcée Fortier himself, Larbi Oukada has recently written that his importance was twofold:

First, he collected and edited many folkloric tales recorded in the indigenous Creole dialect which would otherwise have been lost forever, and, second, he conducted a continuing campaign ... to further interest in the state's linguistic peculiarities. (1979:13)

History: image 1 0f 2 thumb
Alcée Fortier. Photograph: Louisiana State Archives.

Fortier was born in 1856, the son of a St. James Parish sugar planter, attended the University of Virginia, tried banking for a short while and finally turned to education as his profession, first at a New Orleans high school, then as professor of French at the University of Louisiana, and professor of Romance languages when that institution became Tulane. Very active in local civic life, he also became president of both the Modern Language Association and the American Folklore Society, vice president of the American Dialect Society, Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur, and a visiting professor at Chicago, California, Wisconsin and several other American universities. An honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Laval suggests his esteemed place in North American French studies. Indeed, Fortier enjoyed a solid base in the academic world which his predecessors lacked and which few other Louisiana folklorists were to have for decades after him. (For details of his life, see Keaty 1929.)

He came to folklore probably through his interest in the culture of French Louisiana (he penned a survey essay on Louisiana French literature, for example) and in the French language of the state, and he was among that group of American scholars and people of letters (including such per-sonalities as Francis James Child and Franz Boas) who in the 1880s began to talk of establishing a national folklore society. In this they were following European intellectual and scientific trends. When the American Folklore Society was founded in 1888, Fortier was among the first to offer material for the Society's publication. In the same issue of the first volume of the Journal of American Folklore there appeared under his name the texts of several folktales in both English and Creole French and an essay entitled "Customs and Superstitions of Louisiana." This latter piece consisted largely of his boyhood recollections of Negro life and lore on his parents' plantation, and in it he describes slave dancing and music, New Year's Day customs, and beliefs. His insistence that the slaves of the day were well treated and contented sets an intellectual tone for the piece which today may seem naive, but we see here Fortier's own background as son and son-in-law of prominent planters and slave owners. More folktales appeared in the second volume, and in September of 1890 Fortier took a field trip to Acadiana which he wrote up and published the following year in PMLA. It is fascinating as an early account of fieldwork, though it is at least as much a piece of travel writing as an account of Acadian culture, and we see that Fortier's field methods were rather casual ones as we read how he sat in a local hotel taking notes while local jurors sat around speaking French or how he attended a local dance. One could wish for more attention to cultural details. In 1894 Fortier's collection of essays, Louisiana Studies, appeared and included the articles noted above as well as pieces on Louisiana French language and one on the Isleño dialect that included the text of a decima. Then in 1895 came his major collection of Louisiana folktales, published as the second volume of the American Folklore Society Memoirs series; twenty-seven previously unpublished tales in French with English translations were supplemented by an appendix containing those that had appeared already in periodicals. Fortier collected most of the new tales from New Orleans Creole-speaking blacks whom he names or otherwise designates in brief notes that are otherwise devoid of much interest today, though in a few instances Fortier seems to be making an attempt at motif analysis.

But Fortier contributed more to folkloristics than his published collectanea and observations. He seems to have been a magnetic local organizer, and after playing his role as an enthusiastic promoter of the national folklore society he set-about forming its Louisiana branch. The New Orleans (later Louisiana) Association of the American Folklore Society came into being in 1892 and flourished for a few years. At one point there were biweekly meetings with lectures and the reading of folktales. In 1893 there were thirty members, including the president of Tulane, William Preston Johnson (who became a member of the Council of AFS), and the poet Mary Ashley Towsend. For a short period, then, Louisiana was well represented in the ranks of American folklorists, far more so than any other southern state. Fortier himself seems to have been the figure who held the group together and gave it impetus, however, and when his organizing attentions turned elsewhere, the group began to decline. Attempts made to revive it were not particularly successful, and after 1896 there was little activity. Yet for a short time at least the association contributed a folkloric element to the intellectual life of New Orleans (Claudel 1944; Rickels 1969). A literary masterpiece, for in Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1889) the novel's tragic heroine, Edna Pontelier, and the decadent Alcée Arobin arrive at a house to find that a minor character is "just leaving ... to attend the meeting of a branch Folk Lore Society" (Chopin 1976:75)!

There were also notable contributions to Louisiana French folklore studies made in Acadiana around the turn of the century. Judge Felix Voorhies of St. Martinville was interested in local folk culture and in fact supplied Fortier with a list of Acadian proverbs that appeared in Louisiana Studies. In 1907 he published a small book entitled Acadian Reminiscences, which not only includes a short chapter on Acadian folklife in Nova Scotia but which also constitutes something of a pioneering incursion into folk history. Voorhies attempts to record the narrative of the Acadian expulsion from Canada and migration to Louisiana as he heard it from his grandmother, who was one of the original exiles. Though Acadian Reminiscences is, of course, a literary effort on Voorhie's part, he clearly sets the source for his book in the context of oral narration:

In the cold winter days, the family assembled in the hall, where a goodly fire blazed on the hearth; and while the wind whistled outside, our grandmother, an exile from Acadia, would relate to us the stirring scenes she had witnessed when her people were driven from their homes by the British... (1907:18-19)

A few years before Voorhies's work was published, the so-called "Breaux Manuscript" was written (probably by Justice Joseph A. Breaux of the Louisiana Supreme Court, hence the name). This was an account of Cajun folkways as remembered by the author, seemingly from the period of the 1840s. The author was apparently interested primarily in linguistic matters, but his manuscript, became a sort of encyclopedic compilation of various kinds of information on folklife: customs, communal labor, costume, folk architecture, songs, traiteurs, beliefs, and superstitions, to name only a few general areas. The manuscript was left by Breaux to the Louisiana State Museum in 1926 and was not published until 1932 when the Tulane scholar Jay K. Ditchy edited it for a Parisian publisher. Unfortunately the original was subsequently lost, so the Ditchy edited version became doubly valuable. As George Reinecke has pointed out, the folkloric value of the work was lost sight of for some years even by those who were interested in Louisiana folklore because the title Ditchy used emphasized the linguistic aspects; fortunately for folklorists, however, Reinecke arranged and translated the folklife-relevant sections and published them in 1966 as an issue of the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany.

Native American Research: John R. Swanton and Others

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a period of intense fieldwork activity and resultant publication in the anthropology of the American Indian. Although at this time the Indian population of Louisiana was relatively small and scattered, the state's Native Americans did come in for a share of attention, and the few monographs and articles which resulted contain the chief contributions to folklore studies between the Cable-Hearn-Fortier period and the major collecting activities of the thirties and forties. Albert S. Gatschet seems to have been the first modern scientific investigator of Louisiana Indians. He first visited the Chitimacha near Charenton in December 1881. Intent primarily on studying their language, and his report of their culture, published in 1883, constitutes a brief, fragmentary discussion of customs, body decoration, dances and dance houses, jewelry, ceremonials, religion, and language. In 1885 he shifted his attentions further to the west and the Attakapas, but he was able to find only four members of that group living in and around Lake Charles. Between 1903 and 1905, under the auspices of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Amos Dorsey, Curator of Anthropology at the Field Columbian Museum, collected a number of Caddo oral narratives which were published as Traditions of the Caddo. By that time, of course, the Caddo had not lived in Louisiana for decades, and his fieldwork was done in western Oklahoma, where the tribe had been steeled since 1859. Slightly later in the decade, however, two other anthropologists did undertake fieldwork germane to folklore in Louisiana itself.

David I. Bushnell, Missouri-born scion of prominent Southern families, spent the months between December 1908 and April 1909 in St. Tammany Parish, where he regularly visited a small group of Choctaw on Bayou Lacombe (he estimated their full strength at "ten or twelve"), interviewed them about their culture, and published in 1909 a short monograph on them in the Bureau of American Ethnology publication series. This included information on their games, dances and music (sometimes included), folk medicine and concept of witchcraft. The longest section of the monograph consists of texts of oral narratives (which Bushnell also published in the American Anthropologist in 1910). The thirty-five pages of printed text were supplemented by a number of photographs of these Choctaw and their artifacts, and the pictures depict baskets, a drum, blowgun use, and dances, among other subjects. These photos themselves are important early examples of ethnographic documentary photography in Louisiana.

Choctaw man with blowgun, Bayou La Combe, 1909. Photograph: D.I. Bushnell (Smithsonian Institution).

John Reed Swanton arrived in Louisiana a little earlier than Bushnell and thus Louisiana's Indians received the attention of a man who was to become the great authority on the cultures of Southeastern Indian groups. Swanton was a native of Maine who studied at Columbia with Franz Boas, the "father of American anthropology," before finally taking a Ph.D. at Harvard in 1900, one of the first anthropology doctorates conferred. After fieldwork with Northwest Coast tribes he joined the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology and journeyed south. In 1907 he published a descriptive account of the mythology of the Indians along the Louisiana-Texas coast, and in 1911 his first major work relating to Louisiana appeared, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley, a historical and cultural overview of the Native American groups of the region, including a particularly lengthy treatment of the Natchez, but briefer sections on such groups as the Taensa. Avoyel. Bayougoula, Houma, Tunica, Chitimacha and Attakapas. Much of the book is taken up with historical sources, but Swanton is careful to point out that he uses the historical materials in connection with his own field investigations. This volume does contain some folkloric information, but it was in 1929 that his major contribution to folklore appeared. Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians, a compilation of oral narrative texts which he collected between 1908 and 1914 and which includes sixty-five Koasati (Coushatta) texts from informants near Kinder and elsewhere. Swanton's major opus, The Indians of the Southeastern United States (1946), also covers Louisiana tribes, though very briefly.

Writing in his 1946 volume Swanton suggests that the opportunities for fieldwork among southeastern Indian groups are severely limited: "Though students of culture still have work to do here, the future study of the Southeastern Indian rests mainly with the archaeologists" (Haas 1936:404). This gloomy point was reiterated specifically about Gulf Coast Indians in 1950 by Mary R. Haas:

There is a feeling among anthropologist that it is scarcely worthwhile to collect more ethnological or folkloristic material among the Indians of the Southeast, because their aboriginal culture is largely broken down. There is considerable justification for this feeling. (1936:403-404)

Caption: John R. Swanton.

And, indeed, Louisiana at any rate has hardly been a major focus of Native American cultural research. Nonetheless, interest has continued even after the early work of Swanton and the others. The cultural geographer Fred B. Kniffen was an active fieldworker among Louisiana Indians during the 1930s, and he not only collected a number of artifacts but produced a book intended for school use on the Indians of the state (which incorporates a number of folktales from earlier collections). Haas herself has published a volume of Tunica oral narratives in both Tunica and English translation. An anthropological linguist who studied with Edward Sapir, she recorded these between 1933 and 1938 from the last fluent-speaker of the Tunica language. H.F. Gregory, a one time a student of Kniffen and presently professor of anthropology at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, has also been a most active field researcher into Louisiana Indian cultural traditions over a number of years.

Between the Wars: Collectors, Voodoo Researchers, and The Federal Writers Project

John Lomax was born in Mississippi in 1867 but his family moved to Texas in l869 and it was there that he grew up. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1897, but Lomax had grown up to the sound of cowboy songs and even before he had started his university education in Austin he had begun to write down such songs as he heard them sung by various cowboys of his acquaintance. While at UT he showed his collection to several of his professors, only to be disillusioned by the negative reaction of one of them to the extent that he burned all of his manuscripts. Fortunately he went on to Harvard for graduate study in 1906-07, and there he found a more favorable response to his interest in folksongs and came to the attention of George Lyman Kittredge, among other things the greatest ballad scholar of his day. Soon Lomax had been awarded the first of three successive Sheldon Fellowships for the purpose of investigating American balladry, and in 1908 he began the fieldwork that would eventually result in the classic Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910) and Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp (1918).

These volumes alone would have made their compiler's place as an important pioneer folksong scholar, but there was more to come. Lomax spent some years employed by the University of Texas, was fired in 1917 for political reasons, and embarked upon a banking career. When this business career foundered during the early years of the Depression, however, he found himself with time; on his hands and little money in his pocket. As a result, he approached the Macmillan Company with a plan to compile a volume of American folksongs. They accepted his proposal and gave him an advance and at the same time he formed an association with the Library of Congress, agreeing to deposit his recordings there in exchange for blank records and a recording machine.

Thus Lomax, accompanied now by his teenage son, Alan, set out on another great collecting journey in 1933 which eventually took him to eleven states and over 16,000 miles of road. The two were particularly interested at this point in Negro songs, and state penitentiaries were a special focus for their collecting activity, for Lomax theorized that the black inmates of such institutions had been partially cut off from outside musical influences and thus might be expected to preserve an older style of music. In the summer of 1933 they rolled into Angola State Penitentiary in West Feliciana Parish. Not only did they record a number of inmates, but they discovered an outstanding singer, Huddie Ledbetter, nicknamed "Leadbelly," a convicted murderer who would come to be recognized as one of America's greatest traditional singers. Leadbelly was from Mooringsport. Louisiana, near the Texas border, and had been in prison in Texas before his Louisiana incarceration. Though he pleaded with the Lomaxes to help obtain his release, they were able to do nothing until a year later, after they returned to Angola in July 1934. He finally persuaded Lomax to intercede with Governor O. K. Allen and even composed a special "pardon song" in which he requested release, as he had apparently done successfully earlier in Texas. For whatever reasons, the pardon was granted, and Leadbelly joined the Lomaxes as driver and assistant on subsequent folksong collecting rambles. He later made a number of important recordings, went north with them, engaged in a series of lecture-concerts where he would sing and one of them would introduce him and comment upon his songs, and had a rather checkered career as a performer. The Lomax volume of Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936), not only documented this important traditional singer and creative personality, but was the first volume ever to present the repertoire and sketch the life of a single folk performer. (See Lomax 1947; Garvin and Addeo 1972; Johnson n.d.)

Tex Grimsley of Shreveport and Louis Drby of Opelousas at the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship. Photograph: Al Godoy, Louisiana Office of Tourism.

John Lomax did other collecting in northern Louisiana, in Shreveport and Oil City in 1940, and in Winnfield he recorded the female blues singer (and hoodoo practitioner) Willie George King, about whom he writes in his autobiography (Lomax 1947:286-289). After his early collecting with his father, Alan Lomax went to become a radio personality, British Broadcasting Corporation producer, Columbia University anthropology professor, a great authority on folk music in his own right and the developer of the important if controversial theories of cantometrics and choreometrics. He made a collecting foray into French Louisiana in 1934. To some degree he collaborated with Irene Therese Whitfield, who j had grown up to the sound of Cajun music and who had already been collecting the songs of Acadiana. Her Louisiana French Folk Songs, published in 1939 and in a new, expanded edition in 1969, remains the most significant printed collection of Louisiana French songs. In addition to the texts Whitfield herself collected, the book contains a number of songs, mostly in Creole, collected by Lomax.

There were also two important Louisiana French folktale collectors in the period of the twenties through forties, Corinne L. Saucier and Calvin Claudel, both, coincidentally, natives of Avoyelles Parish who collected from Avoyelles residents. Saucier had a long career in Louisiana education climaxed by twenty-four years as a professor of French and Spanish at Northwestern State in Natchitoches. In 1923 she collected French tales and songs for her master's thesis at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. Always one for improving her own education, she attended numerous summer sessions in the United States and abroad, and, finally, beginning in 1946, she undertook doctoral work at Université Laval in Quebec, then and since a center of folklore study. In 1943 she had published a local history, History of Avoyelles Parish, and for her Laval dissertation, written under the direction of the eminent Canadian folklorist Luc Lacourciere, she turned again to her native place and produced a lengthy work entitled Histoire et Traditions de la Paroisse des Avoyelles en Louisiane. This contained an historical sketch of the parish, a description of its folkways, and the texts of the tales, seventy-one folksongs, and a linguistic chapter. The collecting was done on several short trips in 1948, of which Saucier has left a brief account with the aid of a heavy disc recording machine which she had to lug around on buses and in pick-up trucks. The American Folklore Society published the section treating folkways as a volume in its Memoirs series (Saucier 1956), and it stands as a significant contribution to folklore-oriented ethnography. The tales were published in 1962, after her death, and a projected volume of songs has yet to appear.

Claudel's collecting activities were more strictly confined to folktales, though he was interested in other genres as well. Like Saucier he completed a folklore doctoral dissertation, in his case in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina under the noted bibliographer and student of Latin American folklore, Ralph Steele Boogs. For the project he collected a number of tales via phonographic recording in 1944 from five informants, most coming from his mother, Leota Anna Edwards Claudel a talented storyteller with a large repertoire. Although all of his informants were from Avoyelles, the recording was done at LSU in Baton Rouge. Claudel had done earlier field collecting, some of which resulted in publication in periodicals (1941, 1943, e.g.). Well aware of the scientific methodologies for collecting of his day, Claudel supplied lengthy analyses and indexing for his tales and an informative sketch of the history and folk background of the parish. Afro-American magical practices, called voodoo or more commonly hoodoo have long interested the popular mind, especially in connection with Louisiana because of their association.

Afro-American magical practices, called voodoo or more commonly hoodoo have long interested the popular mind, especially in connection with Louisiana because of their association, rightly or wrongly, with the organized voodoo cult which existed in and around New Orleans in the nineteenth century. Cable and Hearn both touched on these matters in their writings, of course, but the 1920s and 1930s brought two major investigations, each quite remarkable in its own way. The later of the two was that conducted by the Rev. Harry Middleton Hyatt, an Episcopal priest, who in 1935 had published a work entitled Folklore from Adams County, Illinois. This was a notable work in that it presented the fruits of an attempt to collect intensively in a single county. Nothing more was heard in the world of folklore studies from Hyatt for many years but in fact in the mid-thirties he had set out on several amazing collecting trips throughout the eastern United States in search of information on people's supernatural beliefs and practices. He travelled from city to city, transporting heavy recording equipment, and in each community sought out the people who knew about hoodoo and magic (usually through the services of a black assistant, though not all of his informants were black). Usually he rented a room at the particular city's best Negro hotel or in some other building to which his informants came (they were paid for their time) and spoke into his machines, answering his questions. He was in New Orleans and Algiers in 1938. In all, he filled over three thousand old Ediphone and Telediphone discs. These sat for many years in Hyatt's New Jersey garage, but they were eventually transcribed (a task which took a year and a half) and published, beginning with two volumes in 1970 of a work called Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, Rootwork. Further volumes appeared; and since Hyatt published them all himself he was able to avoid the constraints of a commercial publisher and print his data in entirety, thus giving folklorists a virtual archive of information on American magic for analysis (de Caro 1974). For his work he was honored by the Fellows of the American Folklore Society in 1972.

The other, earlier inquirer into the realm of the supernatural was Zora Neale Hurston, eminent black novelist and essayist as well as folklorist. Hurston was born in rural Florida, probably in 1901, attended Howard University In Washington as a part-time student, worked as a manicurist in a barber shop, and drifted to New York, where she moved in the literary circles of the Harlem Renaissance writers and also came to the attention of America's foremost anthropologist, Franz Boas, when she started to attend Barnard College on a scholarship in 1925. Unlike many male scholars, Boas had a habit of strongly encouraging his female students - such as Ruth Benedict and Elsie Clews Parsons - and he encouraged Hurston, Boas was interested in "folklore, as were some of the Harlem Renaissance writers, but she "knew the folkloric context better than any of their contemporaries" (Hemenway 1977:56) and Boas encouraged her to move in this direction. In February 1927, funded by a $1400 scholarship, she left New York for fieldwork in Florida. For various reasons this trip was not a great success, but later in the same year she set out again, this time financed under contract by Charlotte Mason, wealthy, eccentric patroness of several Afro-American writers. Now Hurston began to have much better success as a collector. She had become interested in getting information on hoodoo and in August, 1928, she arrived in New Orleans, where there was said to be a large number of practitioners.

Hurston later published her hoodoo data in a long Journal of American Folklore article (1931) and in her book, Mules and Men (1935). In New Orleans she found not only the "usual" conjure men and root doctors, but also the vestiges of an organized cult with rituals and dances. She apprenticed herself to a hoodoo man who claimed to be a grandnephew of Marie Laveau, and he initiated her as a priestess in a ceremony during which she lay on her stomach for sixty-nine hours and had psychic experiences after which various ritual practices, such as the slaughter of a sheep, were performed. Some may question that anything approaching a voodoo cult still existed in New Orleans in the late twenties and may thus doubt her account, especially given Hurston's talent for fiction and desire to use folklore to enrich creative writing. But she was a black woman (and an amazingly dynamic person), whereas most other investigators of the hoodoo world have been white men as well as "detached" questioners. As her biographer, Robert Hemenway, comments:

Hurston collected conjure lore in the same way she collected anything else, by totally immersing herself in the lives of the people who lived it...Hurston was a black woman of great sympathy offering herself as an apprentice to the experienced sorcerer. She wished to learn, beginning with the simple and advancing to the complex. As a result, she not only gained a holistic view of the hoodoo process, but also experienced a series of impressive initiation ceremonies into the occult world. (1977:118)

Certainly her account of her New Orleans experiences is a most extraordinary one.6

Another very powerful force for the study of folklife in Louisiana was also at work in the 1930s, a force which has continued on to the present day. This was Fred Bowerman Kniffen and the "school" of cultural geography that he founded at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Kniffen was born in Michigan in 1900 and received his Ph.D. from the University of California in 1929, where lie was a student of the great anthropologist A.L. Kroeber. His early publications had to do with Western Indians, but in 1935 he joined the Department of Geography and Anthropology at LSU and his attentions turned to Louisiana.7

Kniffen was to become recognized as the preeminent authority on American folk housing, and it was a pioneering article in 1936 called "Louisiana House Types" which was his first foray into this field. But Kniffen was not interested simply in houses as divorced from everything else, and over the next decade and beyond we see him evolving a perspective which attempts to tie folk artifacts into larger pictures of culture areas and cultural diffusion. Kniffen was probably influenced by the anthropologist Erland Nordenskiold, and he began to consider what he termed "culturogeographic areas," regions in which only the man-made forms would be considered. His own Louisiana fieldwork was extensive, covering about 15,000 houses all over the state, which he divided into categories according to various criteria. He did not intend merely to provide a typology, however, but to show how the architecture matched settlement patterns and the cultures of different groups, whether Acadian French, Anglo-Saxons from other parts of the South, or later Midwesterners. These points were reiterated in two later articles, one co-authored with Henry Glassie (Kniffen 1965; Kniffen and Glassie 1966) in which the major folk house types of the eastern United States are classified and treated in terms of the context of historical diffusion from certain centers outward. (Glassie was later to modify these ideas in the direction of greater complexity and to add other elements of material folk culture, such as furniture).

Kniffen's theoretical perspectives can also be clearly seen in another study which had its beginnings in some of his Louisiana fieldwork, though ultimately its implications related to the American West. While doing fieldwork with the Koasati Indians, he happened to obtain a spinner for making rope from horsehair or Spanish moss (Kniffen, 1949). Eventually he traced the distribution of such spinners not only in Louisiana but all over the Western United States and discerned that their distribution matched that of other items, types of saddles, ropes, costume, and so on. From these folk artifacts and their distribution he was able to determine the existence of two major cattle ranching culturogeographic areas (Kniffen 1953).

The influence of Kniffen has been considerable and widespread. Nationally he has influenced a generation of cultural geographers, and his work has been an important factor in moving folklorists toward the study not only of oral traditions but of material ones too. His influence on folklorists has been particularly through Henry Glassie, who moved to the very forefront of those who study material culture. (Though never a student of Kniffen in any formal sense, Glassie has repeatedly acknowledged his debt to the geographer; Glassie, incidentally, was a student at Tulane and has done fieldwork in Louisiana, though not of any particular importance in the larger context of his work. In terms of Louisiana itself, Kniffen's impact has also been great or at least potentially great. For one thing, he fits individual folk artifacts and even patterns of artifacts into larger cultural systems and notes how these systems are related to each other. This has particular implications for the study of north Louisiana Anglo-Saxon folklore, for unlike many who have studied folklore and folklife within the state, he has paid attention to the two major culture areas of the state and how they "come together." Virtually everyone else working at the same time (and a great many since) were concerned primarily, if not exclusively, with the cultures of French south Louisiana. Certainly Kniffen did not ignore the French element, but this was only one element, and he gave equal emphasis to the other elements as well in calling attention to the cultural configurations of the northern parts of the state. Further, he directly influenced a number of geographers trained at LSU to pursue Louisiana cultural studies.

Two such students, Malcolm Comeaux and William Knipmeyer, produced major dissertations on the southern part of the state, Knipmeyer's a compendious survey of a number of folk cultural forms-house types, other buildings, folk boats, folk occupations-as part of the cultural landscape of eastern French Louisiana (1956), Comeaux's a study specifically of such folk occupations as fishing, crayfishing, crabbing, frogging, hunting and Spanish moss gathering as these are practiced in the Atchafalaya Basin (and including those of the Anglo-Saxon groups settled around Bayou Sorrel and Bayou Chene) (1969). In another dissertation Martin Wright (1956) studied the extension into Louisiana of "lobes of Southern Hill culture," the most unique feature of which is the "preoccupation" with log construction; this work centered on log houses, notably the double pen type, thus not only dealing with the folk culture of the northern part of the state but also continuing Kniffen's interest in housing.

The Florida Parishes came under the scrutiny of yet another Kniffen student, Milton Newton, whose dissertation detailed what he termed the "peasant farm" in St. Helena Parish, its layout, structures, field crops, and animals, and the annual round of events which takes place within its confines. The cultural geography of the French-and Midwestern-influenced southwestern prairies of Louisiana was also described in a Ph.D. dissertation by James W. Taylor (1956) in the same year as Knipmeyer's and Wright's works.

H.F. Gregory was another Kniffen student, and though he left LSU to take his Ph.D. at Southern Methodist University and has published most extensively on archaeological subjects, he has continued ethnographic fieldwork in the northern part of the state with Afro-American, Anglo-American. French, Spanish, and Native American communities. In particular, he has written on African cultural elements in the Delta Parishes (1962) and on the commercial fishermen of the Black River area (1966). Gregory has been one of the most active fieldworkers in north Louisiana and in 1980 and 1981 brought his expertise to the services of the Natchitoches Folk Festival as well as to a major exhibition of folk crafts at the Alexandria Museum. Gregory and Knipmeyer joined the faculty at Northwestern State University and Newton remained at LSU to continue the Kniffen tradition of cultural geography and folklife studies there. LSU has, in fact, continued as a center for studies of folk housing. In addition to Newton, Jay D. Edwards, an anthropologist trained at Tulane and originally a specialist in Caribbean cultures, has been engaged in a major survey of French folk housing in the state, utilizing the services of a team of graduate students and others and funded by a number of grants. This survey involves not only fieldwork but historical documen-tation and an attempt to determine the historical antecedents of south Louisiana's folk architecture.

Harry Oster LP cover produced for the Louisiana Folklore Society in 1958. Courtesy of Music Resources, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

Another cultural geographer whose work in the 1930s bore upon Louisiana folklife was Lauren C. Post. Post was a native of Acadia Parish and, though not a Cajun, learned at an early age to speak Cajun French, which, he wrote, "helped me to acquire an appreciation of the old Acadian ways." After a hitch in the Navy he wound up at the University of California, where in 1937 he submitted the doctoral dissertation entitled "Cultural Geography of the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana," later modified to become the popular volume Cajun Sketches (first published in 1962 and reprinted in 1974 with a foreword by Governor Edwin Edwards). Post spent most of his career at San Diego State University in California, but he was on the LSU faculty for two years, and a number of his publications dealt with the folklife research he did within the state then and at other times. His mind was wide ranging and his publications reflect eclectic interests rather than a grand design such as Kniffen's Acadian weavers and spinners, cattle brands, chair making, country Mardi Gras, Cajun Music, fence types, fighting cocks, folk healing, and other subjects which, taken together, provide a rather full depiction of Acadian folklife. Post also took his interest in Louisiana folk culture from the field to the folk festival. He organized an historic appearance of Louisiana French folk artists at the National Folk Festival in Dallas-probably the first national representation of Louisiana Cajun culture in a folk festival setting-first in 1936 and later in subsequent years.

The period between the World Wars also saw other folkloristic activity. For example, the noted collector Herbert Halpert, later head of the Department of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, stopped in Louisiana in June, 1939, as a minor part on a Southern folksong collecting trip sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Joint Committee on Folk Arts of the Works Progress Administration. He recorded several phonodiscs with material, mostly Creole songs, from two informants. In the English department at LSU, William A. Read, himself a dialectician and place-name scholar, directed a number of theses on Louisiana folklore subjects, such as Vallie Tinsley's "Some Negro Songs Heard on the Hills of North Louisiana" (1928). Also at LSU, the Ex-tension Department created the Acadian Handicrafts Project under the direction of Louise Olivier. Although designed to facilitate the marketing of crafts items, the project caused to be gathered much information on Acadian traditional crafts, notably weaving, and Olivier even garnered some folktales. Also active in the 1930s was Edward Larocque Tinker. Although primarily a social and literary historian and collector of prints and books, including an outstanding group of early Louisiana imprints which he donated to the American Antiquarian Society; he was interested in folklore and authored articles on Louisiana French language (1935). He also wrote about a New Orleans Negro cult leader (1930), and in an historical novel, Toucoutou, he incorporated folksongs. With his wife, Frances Tinker, a New Orleans native, he co-authored a series of novelettes, Old New Orleans, which makes use of Creole lore. Tinker also penned an important biography of Lafcadio Hearn (1924).

In some respects the most important undertaking of the period was that accomplished by the Louisiana Writers' Project. This project was not undertaken by people who were primarily interested in folklore and its end result was not the carefully recorded texts such as were set down by the Lomaxes, Whitefield, Saucier and Claudel, but it was remarkable in being a group effort which used a number of fieldworkers and in being an early and successful instance of government support for folklore research.8

The Louisiana Writers' Project was part of the larger Federal Writers' Project, which was in turn an aspect of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA had been created in the midst of the Great Depression by the Roosevelt administration as one of several agencies to provide a measure of relief for the large numbers of unemployed Americans. Its function was to carry on "small useful projects designed to assure maximum employment in all localities." It was recognized that white collar workers as well as blue were in need of work and that a number of persons in cultural professions-actors, musicians, artists-were also unemployed. Thus several national cultural projects came into being: the Federal Art Project, Federal Music Project, and Federal Theater Project, as well as the Writers' Project, headed by Henry Alsberg.

The Writers' Project, which was to employ not only writers but librarians and others, adopted as its principal goal the compiling and publishing of a series of American guidebooks, to be as authoritative as the Baedekers of Europe.9 Originally there were to be five regional guides which would include a great variety of information, including information on customs and folklore, but later it was decided that each state would have an individual guide. Hence, each state would have a separate project. Chosen to head the Louisiana Project was Lyle Saxon, a native of Baton Rouge born in 1891. He had spent some years as a journalist, had turned to more creative free-lance work, and had been a member of the artistic colony that existed at Melrose Plantation south of Natchitoches. In October 1935, he assumed his duties as director of the Louisiana Project and was given an office in the Canal Bank Building in New Orleans, Saxon was initially assigned a quota of sixty-three employees (though he had originally anticipated hiring 154 and uncertainties about the size of his staff plagued the undertaking throughout its existence), and lie set about hiring personnel, not only writers but also historians, teachers, unemployed lawyers and others, and established branch offices in a number of Louisiana cities, such as Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Monroe.

The job of the project was, essentially, to gather and order information, not only for the anticipated guidebook but also in connection with other related schemes such as a history of the Negro in Louisiana and a survey of historical records. To do so, a complex system was devised to provide a steady and systematic flow of data. At one end of the flow were the fieldworkers. Since many had never done research before, they were given detailed instructions, and a supervisor gave each a specific subject area to research. The research itself might be done through the utilization of documentary sources, through personal observation, or by interviewing people. The workers took field notes, then wrote what were called "field continuities," which were passed along to field editors, who produced "field editorial copy," which was sent to the state staff in New Orleans for the final in-state editing. Some of the fieldworkers were detailed to find folklore, and in fact the project wound up amassing a great deal of it. This was a result partly of the original inclusion of folklore and folklife in the national plan, and other states gathered folkloric data also, although Louisiana was probably the most zealous in this regard. Lyle Saxon, like Cable and Hearn before him, was something of a romantic, and the exotic cultural mix of the state and of New Orleans in particular intrigued him and led him to a particular interest in folklore which he was certainly able to indulge while involved with the Writer's Project.

The two guidebooks which came out of the project the New Orleans City Guide (1938) and Louisiana: A Guide to the State (1945) clearly reflect that interest in folklore. The City Guide includes not only descriptions of chimney sweeps and latanier peddlers, but the actual texts of a Creole folksong and folktale and a list of charms with prices at a "voodoo drugstore," unusual items for any guidebook. There is a whole chapter on Negro spiritualist churches, one on Storyville and its cultural contributions, and ofj course chapters on Carnival and the cemeteries. Bits and pieces of information on folklife are scattered throughout other chapters as well. The state guide actually contains somewhat less folklore, which is also less concentrated, though here also there is awaited a bit: treasure lore, fais do dos, the words to Cajun dance tunes, saints' processions, voodoo, costume, and Creole songs, for example. Even in the state guide much of the folklore is that of New Orleans, an indication of the Project's (and Saxon's) New Orleans-centered bias. This is evident also in the third major publication which came out of the project. Gumbo Ya Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales (Saxon, Dreyer and Tallant 1945). This was not only the sole folklore volume to come out of the Louisiana Project (though it was actually published just after the project ended in 1945) but in fact one of only two major works of folklore to come out of the Federal Writers' Project as a whole for many years; and, indeed, it stands as a landmark. Despite its subtitle, it is not a collection of folktales at all, but rather a running account of mores, the lives of local characters, social history and ethnic cultures as well as folk customs festivals, cemeteries, and oral lore (though a number of folklore texts are given, especially songs, and there are lists of superstitions and colloquialisms). In style the book is somewhat journalistic and emphasis is placed upon the colorful and the sensational, and, if one compares sections of the book to the relevant field continuities, it is clear that the final writers reshaped the field material substantially in those directions. Also, again despite the subtitle, the emphasis is on New Orleans rather than the state as a whole. Yet in spite of its flaws, Gumbo Ya Ya remains an important contribution, not only because it is such a readable account, or even because of the documentary photographs it contains, but because it does bring together so much information. The authors certainly had a "feel" for the folklife of the Crescent City and if they failed to live up to the standards for ethnographic documentation, so did they reach a sort of semi-poetic description of life which goes beyond such prosaic standards.10

The Post War Period

Fortier's New Orleans branch of the American Folklore Society had ceased to function even before his death in 1914, and there was no statewide organization devoted to folklore study operating in Louisiana during the period when Lomax and Saucier and their contemporaries were undertaking their major fieldwork projects here. (This was hardly an unusual situation for the times; much larger states, such as New York and California, did not have state societies until the 1940s.) This lack was eliminated in 1956 when, the Louisiana Folklore Society was founded in Baton Rouge. This society grew out of an LSU English department Folklore Committee chaired by Darwin Shrell and also including Harry Oster and Clayton Holaday. This committee arranged a program, presented on April 7, 1956, which was "planned to show the range of Louisiana folklore and to determine the extent of state-wide interest in the subject" (Shrell 1960). The program featured several speakers, Shrell, Oster, Vallie Tinsley White, LSU geographer William Haag, and Stith Thompson, eminent Indiana University folklorist who was that year a visiting professor at the University of Texas. At a business meeting-following the program, presided over by Nathaniel Caffee of the LSU English Department, about 150 people passed resolutions which formally established the LFS. By the end of July the group had eighty-one charter members, and its first annual meeting took place at LSU on April 27, 1957, with papers by a number of people, including Oster, Louise Olivier, Kniffen, Claudel, and jazz authority Richard Allen. In May 1958. the first issue of the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany appeared (although, as will be discussed below, this was not the first publication of the Society) (Shrell 1960; Rickels 1969). The Miscellany has been published ever since, although generally on an irregular basis.

In a sense, the LFS has been a focus for most of the folkloristic activity in the state since 1956. It is not that the society has organized or funded research. Like most state folklore societies, the group has neither the infrastructure nor the money to do that. But a large number of persons in the state interested in folklore have been associated with the society and the society has provided a network for communication. The Miscellany has been the publication in which much of the serious writing on Louisiana folklore has appeared. Also, the existence of the society, with many of its members based in Louisiana colleges and universities, underscores the fact that interest in folklore in the state has moved toward greater institutional support and investment, with institutions of higher learning offering folklore courses and establishing archives and research institutes, and, since the late 1970s, with the support shown by state and federal government agencies. There has also been interest on the part of private organizations such as the Newport Folk Foundation.

The most notable collector of Louisiana folklore during the late fifties and early sixties was a founder of the LFS, Harry Oster.11 Oster came to teach in the English Department at LSU in 1955 with little thought of undertaking folklore research. As the result of his giving a successful lecture-concert of Child ballads, however, it was suggested that he might apply to the graduate school for funds to collect local folk materials, and when to his surprise he received a grant for five hundred dollars he set out into the field to do just that. At first progress was slow, but he began at last to uncover and record a wealth of materials: ranging from ancient French ballads to Anglo- American play party songs, and in the course of his work he became known as one of the most active collectors in the country. His activities were noted by Time magazine, and the headline of a New York Times article about him proclaimed: "Professor Roams Bayou Area in Quest of Material."

Rural black Creole Courir de Mardi Gras. Photograph: Nicholas R. Spitzer.

Oster published two articles in the Miscellany, one "on the folk ceremonies at a Negro Baptist church in Concordia Parish, one on Cajun country Mardi Gras (this latter co-authored with Revon Reed, local schoolteacher, radio announcer and promoter of Cajun music) (Oster 1958; Oster and Reed 1960). However, it was as a collector of music and an issuer of LP phonograph records; that Oster became best known. The first record he produced was A Sampler of Louisiana Folksongs in 1957; this was a selection of his field materials; and he released copies with annotated booklets and jackets homemade by taping together pieces of hand-lithographed paper. This record and two subsequent ones in 1958 and 1959, respectively, Louisiana Folksong Jambalaya (Oster's own singing of Louisiana songs) and Folksongs of the Louisiana Acadians, were issued as publications of the LFS: so were two other records, Angola Prison Spirituals (1958) and Angola Prisoners' Blues (1959), the results of a desire on Oster's part to record Afro-American work songs which eventually led him to visit the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he made a number of historic recordings of black inmates. Although Oster financed and distributed all of these records himself, the use of the LFS name as their "label" does represent an early and unique interest on the part of the scholarly organization in issuing commercial recordings of folk material.

Oster went on to produce other recordings of Louisiana music, including Bayou Bluegrass: The Louisiana Honeydippers (1961), Those Prison Blues: Robert Pete Williams (1959), and two New Orleans albums in conjunction with Richard Allen. He founded the Folk-Lyric label (recordings now distributed by Arhoolie Records, see Appendix section), collaborated with Kenneth S. Goldstein, America's foremost producer of scholarly folk recordings, on records of British traditional materials, and in 1969, years after he had left LSU for the University of Iowa, published Living Country Blues, a major collection of blues texts based largely on his Louisiana fieldwork.

In the 1960s the Newport Folk Foundation took an interest in researching, recording and presenting Louisiana traditional music and, by assisting in the establishment of a Louisiana Folk Foundation by members of the LFS, helped to promote interest in the music of the state both within its borders and beyond. The Newport Folk Foundation had arisen out of the success of the famous Newport Jazz Festival as a nonprofit organization which would not only present a Newport Folk Festival but would also spend profits from the festival to encourage research on and the appreciation of American traditional music. In January, 1964, Alan Lomax, then a director of the Folk Foundation, contacted Ralph Rinzler, folk music collector as well as a bluegrass performer, and suggested that he join Newport full time on a salaried basis and go to south Louisiana to find record and select Louisiana French musicians for Newport performances. Rinzler suspended the fieldwork he had been doing elsewhere and accepted the challenge. He contacted Oster (who had left LSU by then) and local folklore promoters and collectors such as Paul Tate (prominent Mamou attorney), Revon Reed, Richard Wagner, and Milton and Patricia Rickels. Out of this collaboration there emerged a legal entity, the Louisiana Folk Foundation, with Tate as president, and the foundation for several years sponsored local folk festivals. As a result, Cajun performers went to Newport and beyond, and Rinzler made a series of important field tapes. Perhaps more important, the interest shown was a major element in the revival of interest in Cajun music. At the time Tate was to write:

The Newport Folk Foundation is principally responsible for what is happening to Cajun music today. And with the recognition of the authenticity and legitimacy of Cajun music will come a greater appreciation and understanding of Acadian culture and the Acadian soul-by the Cajun as well as by those with whom he comes in contact. (Newport Folk Festival Program 1966:52)12

The Louisiana Folk Foundation (which existed until 1974) found support at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette; not only were there interested faculty members, but a major festival was held on the campus in fall of 1966, sponsored jointly by the Newport and Louisiana foundations and the university itself. This reflects the interest in folklore gradually growing through the sixties and accelerating in the seventies at the state's colleges and universities. A course in American folklore was established at USL in the mid-sixties by Patricia Rickels, who had joined the English faculty there in 1957. This popular course generated both student interest in folklore and student fieldwork (as did another USL English course on American humor, taught by Milton Rickels, an authority on the humor of the old Southwest) and helped to lay a strong foundation for the development of folklore at USL, a development which really began to blossom in the mid-seventies with the establishment of the Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore.

Established by USL in 1974 this center was first headed by archivist Otis Hebert, until his untimely death. It was then taken over in 1977 by Barry Jean Ancelet, also a native speaker of Acadian French and a folklore M.A. from Indiana University. Ancelet was successful in obtaining grant funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, and under his direction the center became a very active focus for field collecting and an important archival depository. The center existed until 1980 with Ancelet moving to the Center for Louisiana Studies at that time and continuing his field research under their auspices and with the Center's existing collections being moved to the USL Library.

To some degree the center grew in response to a growing sense of Cajun ethnic identity, a process which has also stimulated the development of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, and which has also helped to spawn the Tribute to Cajun Music, an annual music festival held in Lafayette since 1974, which features many Acadian and Creole musical performers and which was also organized in part by Ancelet. Another outgrowth of this "Cajun renaissance" has been the establishment at USL of a degree program in North American Francophone studies, directed by A. David Barry, a program in which folklore courses play a major role.

Various folk buildings found at LSU's Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge. Louisiana Office of Tourism.

After Harry Oster left LSU in 1963, the English Department there was without a folklorist until Francis A. de Caro, an Indiana folklore Ph.D., joined the faculty in 1970. An introductory folklore course was finally established in 1974, other folklore courses have since been added, and in 1980 a folklore concentration within the English major and a less formal curriculum within the English major and a less formal curriculum within the anthropology major were proposed. Rosan A. Jordan, another Indiana Ph.D., began teaching folklore at LSU in 1978. Interest in folklife continued within the Department of Geography and Anthropology, but the most significant folklore development at LSU was the creation of the Museum of Rural Life, an excellent outdoor folk museum similar to like institutions in Europe and situated on the Burden Research Plantation south of the main campus. The museum was largely the creation of one man. Steele Burden, member of a prominent Baton Rouge family and at one time landscape architect for the university. Interested in preserving the material remains of plantation life in the Lower Mississippi Valley, Burden at his own expense began acquiring and moving to the plantation, which his family donated to LSU, buildings and artifacts which he feared might otherwise disappear, and the museum began to take shape with an overseer's house, slave cabins, a plantation church and store, various work areas, and a graveyard complete with nineteenth-century wrought-iron crosses arranged to suggest a working plantation, as well as a vast assortment of miscellaneous artifacts on display in an adjacent building. The museum is open to the public on a limited basis and has not as yet been fully integrated into the teaching and research functions of LSU but stands as a potentially superb resource for the future.

The Anglo-American Museum, also at LSU and dedicated principally to the fine arts, has also contributed to the study and public appreciation of material folk culture. In 1972, H. P. Bacot, the museum's curator, mounted a major exhibition of Louisiana folk art, partly in response to a challenge made by folklorist Louis C. Jones that Southern museums should make the public as aware of Southern folk art as Northern museums had the folk art of their region. The exhibition included iron work, furniture, textiles, naive painting and sculpture, and other items. The museum also featured an exhibition of historical and contemporary Chitimacha Indian basketry in 1981. In 1980 the LSU Union presented an exhibition of Louisiana traditional crafts organized by de Caro and Jordan. Although this exhibition featured relatively few artifacts, it was based on considerable field research and included photographic documentation. As was the case with the earlier Anglo-American show, an informative catalogue was published (Bacot 1973; de Caro and Jordan 1980).

Students at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux have had a folklore course available to them for a number of years, taught by LFS members Nolan LeCompte, Marie Fletcher, and Patricia Perrin, and in 1979 a second course was added to the curriculum. In the same year another significant development in the study of Louisiana traditional culture took place at Nicholls, the establishment of the Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building by Joseph T. Butler and John R. Rochelle. The purpose of this center is to provide documentation of such Louisiana folk boat types as the pirogue and Lafitte skiff by amassing photographs and other records and interviewing retired and working boatbuilders.13

At the University of New Orleans a folklore course was established in the late sixties in the Anthropology Department, partly as a means of training students in fieldwork techniques, and this course has been taught by Ethelyn Orso, present editor of the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, Orso has also utilized documentary film for Louisiana folklife subjects and produced one short film on the Mardi Gras Indians and another on St. Joseph's Day altars.

Mary Lou Gunn of Ruston shells peas on her back porch. Photograph: Susan Roach Lankford.

In the late 1970s Northwestern State University at Natchitoches emerged as a major force in folklore study in the state. There had been interest in folklife at Northwestern for many years, of course. Corinne Saucier had been on the faculty until her retirement in 1955, one university presi-dent was a cultural geographer who had studied with Kniffen, and a Center for Louisiana Studies was established in 1961 whose associates included those interested in the study of folk culture and whose journal, Louisiana Studies, came to publish a number of folklife-oriented articles. A folklore course was begun in 1968 by Donald Hatley when he joined the English faculty. Hatley became president of the LFS for 1971-72, but he and several others at Northwestern began to feel that the society's interests were largely limited to south Louisiana and the French-speaking cultures of the state and that its members had emphasized oral lore and neglected material culture. In the latter concern they were, of course, echoing a national trend as folklore scholars all over the country began to see a need for studying more than oral traditions. As a result, however, Hatley and some colleagues founded in 1976 the Folklife Society of Louisiana, which was to promote the study of the folklore and folklife of central and northern Louisiana with an emphasis on material culture. It was also designed to be less traditionally academic and literary in orientation than the LFS.

The Society began a publication, Louisiana Folklife, and at first attempted a program of quarterly meetings until that proved unfeasible. Then in 1978 its officers and members were instrumental in bringing about the creation of the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern, separate from the Center for Louisiana Studies (which in 1976 had actually become the Center for Southern Studies and which had moved more in the direction of conventional historical studies) but closely allied with the Williamson Museum, of which H.F. Gregory was curator. The Center served to coordinate research efforts, to act as a resource agency on folklife for local teachers, and has issued LP phonograph recordings in cooperation with the State Folklife Program. The North Louisiana String Band, Cornbread for Your Husband and Biscuits for Your Man, and Since Ol' Gabriel's Time: Hezekiah and the Houserockers. These and future planned recordings are in part an outgrowth of the activity which has taken most of the Center's attention recently, the Natchitoches Folk Festival, first held during the summer of 1980. This event has presented a variety of traditional performers who have been documented via careful fieldwork and has each year focused on the folklife of a particular north Louisiana industry, cotton in 1980, timber in 1981. For example, the first of the records stemmed from the cotton compress calls performed by Clifford Blake in 1980. Both the Festival and the records certainly put the Folklife Society square in the tradition of the Louisiana Folk Foundation and Harry Oster, and this society has to date been more activist more close-knit and more oriented toward collective work and toward reaching a broad public than the more academic and literary LFS.

Cornbread for Your Husband and Biscuits for Your Man. An early LP released by the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern in cooperation with the State Folklife Program.

There was considerable energy put into the study of Louisiana folklore in the sixties and seventies, although much of it went into teaching, museums and exhibitions, archiving, records and festivals rather than into conventional publications. Such was true of the country as a whole as folklorists began to revise their notion of what constituted "research" (or at least what were the acceptable end products of research) to include media which might reach a larger audience or might more fully and accurately present folk performers than journal articles or monographs could. Nonetheless, a stream of printed articles and occasional books did continue to flow. It is not the purpose of this essay to be bibliographic, but a perusal of the pages of the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, Louisiana Studies, Louisiana Folklife, Revue de Louisiane, and occasionally other periodicals reveals something of the folklore issues that have interested people in the state. One finds articles on a range of subjects that include the Easter Rock ceremonies in the Delta Parishes (Oster 1958; Gregory 1962), folklore in Louisiana literature (Anderson 1958, 1960, 1961a, 1961b; Roppolo 1960; Tapley 1976-80), Cajun music (Del Sesto 1976-80; Comeaux 1978; Brandon 1976-80, 1976; Blanchet 1970), healing and supernaturalism (Firmin 1975; Post 1975; Barrois 1970; Abboud 1968; Carbo 1968; Rickels 1961, 1965; Pebworth 1965), Mardi Gras and other festival occasions, such as St. Joseph's Day (Reinecke 1965; Oster and Reed 1960; Miner 1973; Martin 1973; Orso and Kaveski 1975). urban folklore (Harling 1971), folktales and jokes (Smithe and Orso 1973; Ancelet 1975; Ancelet and Ryder 1974), children's folklore (Soileau 1976-1980), and cuisine (Gueymard 1973; Landry 1966). This is only a sample of articles and subjects. There have also been numerous master's theses and dissertations (such as Elizabeth Brandon's study of language and folkways in Vermilion Parish (1955), and occasional books, and numerous articles in national journals. Many of these are cited elsewhere in this volume.

Whereas earlier folklore research tended to be carried on by a few isolated individuals, today one finds a wide selection of people interested in Louisiana folklife and in writing about it, although, as in any state, there have been a few who have most consistently contributed their thoughts and research to the public. For example in the 1950s John Q. Anderson, who published on Texas folklore as well as that of Louisiana, was particularly active, and Patricia Rickels has devoted much energy to the study of Acadian and Creole folklore since she came to USL in 1957, publishing several important articles (1961; 1965; 1975). Also, as in other places, the persons interested in folklore have often been those who, though not "trained" in folklore, have combined their expertise as scholars with their own knowledge of local cultures to which they have personal ties to produce interesting observations on their "native" lore. Perhaps foremost of such individuals has been George Reinecke of the University of New Orleans, trained in English literature at Harvard. As a member of the New Orleans Creole community, Reinecke grew up speaking French and learning a culture which was then on the verge of major transformations. He has been able to bring his insider's cultural knowledge, plus a great accumulation of other knowledge of south Louisiana history and cultural groups to the study of folklore and has published on a variety of topics, including ethnicity, folksongs, folk speech, Creole menus, Mardi Gras, tricksters, the New Orleans Twelfth Night cake, and the Wandering Jew (1965; 1970; 1971:1975:1978), and has often shared his knowledge in informal contexts. When the American Folklore Society met in New Orleans in 1975, he read a paper about the folklore he knew as a boy in that city, thus putting together the personal and scholarly, something which few in any discipline other than folkloristics allow for.

If any broad criticism is to be leveled at the work done in Louisiana folklore, not only that of the postwar period but also earlier, it is that there has been a concentration of interest in south Louisiana to the neglect of the northern part of the state. This is indeed true, though certainly there has been north Louisiana work, such as that done by Kniffen and his students, several articles which have appeared in Louisiana Studies, such as those by Gregory (1962, 1966), G.A. Stokes (1963), Goodloe Stuck (1971) and Kathleen Severance (1970), and even some articles in the Miscellany, such as Shirley Burris's on fish gigging (1976-80), Ted-Larry Pebworth's on several subjects (1961, 1965), Hugh S. Brown's on hoodoo in Shreveport (1965), and Anna S. Burns's on sawmill town superstitions (1976-80). If the north has been neglected, it is to be hoped that this will hardly continue to be the case, with the Folklife Society of Louisiana and the Natchitoches Folk Festival active and the presence of a North Louisiana native who is a doctoral candidate in folklore at the University of Texas, Susan Roach-Lankford, in the area doing considerable field work on a number of topics.14

The 1980s promise for folklife studies in the state major realignments of emphases and efforts in line with important developments of the late seventies, particularly the growing involvement of government in folk cultural matters on the state, federal and even local levels. This has been a national trend, but events in Louisiana have been such that the state is among those where the trend has been most dramatic. Federal government interest in folklore and folklife has been building for some years, particularly in those agencies concerned with cultural issues, such as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Library of Congress had for years maintained the famous Archive of Folk Song; the Smithsonian began to work folklorists into research fellowships and to plan for national folk festivals; NEA established a Folk Arts Program. In 1976 the American Folklife Center was created by Congress as an agency within the Library of Congress. The National Park Service cooperated with the Smithsonian and the National Council for the Traditional Arts in producing festivals. On the state level, Pennsylvania had a state folklorist by the late 1960s and a few other states began to look in that direction.

At the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Detroit in 1977 three Louisiana folklorists, Barry Ancelet of USL, and Rosan Jordan and Frank de Caro of LSU, were talking with Roger D. Abrahams, University of Texas folklorist, and it was suggested that the Louisiana state government ought to be urged to greater involvement in folklife. The possibility of a small statewide meeting to do just that was discussed and, back in Baton Rouge, Jordan and de Caro approached Al Head, director of the Division of the Arts in the State Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Head, who had directed the Stephen Foster Center in Florida, was sympathetic to folk arts (and had in fact already discussed possible state involvement in this area with Don Hatley) and agreed to help with the meeting, which was then organized by Jordan, de Caro, and Ancelet. It took place in the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge in December 1977, and was attended by about fifteen people. Abrahams and Nicholas Spitzer came as representatives of NEA, whose Folk Arts Program, headed now by Bess Lomax Hawes, daughter of John Lomax, was hop-ing to increase its level of support in the South. After a day of discussion, the conference par-ticipants urged the hiring of a Folk Arts Coordinator in the Division of the Arts and the publication of a directory of state folklife resources.

The position of Folk Arts Coordinator was indeed established, funded for three years by the NEA and in October, 1978, Nicholas Spitzer, a University of Texas folklore/anthropology doctoral candidate who had done considerable fieldwork in French Louisiana, was hired to fill the post. Since then the Folk Arts Coordinator and the division have moved to promote the folk arts in a number of ways. Great quantities of information have been gathered on the folk cultures of the state and on organizations and individuals interested in folklife. A statewide conference, attended by over 150 people, was held in May 1979, to bring together folklorists, state officials, arts activists and others to discuss folklife. A Folk Arts Panel was created to encourage and review appropriate grant applications. A second conference, devoted to north Louisiana, was held in Ferriday in May, 1981, and work proceeded on the directory in which this essay appears and which contains other information on state involvement or potential involvement in folklife which need not be detailed here. In July, 1981, Act 893 passed the State Legislature authorizing a separate Division of Folklife and creating a Louisiana Folklife Commission.

Cajun Mardi Gras, 1935. Lauren Post, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

Another important impetus brought about by government has been the creation of the Jean Lafitte National Park by the National Park Service in 1977. A new concept in national parks, this is a cultural park which aims at preserving not only the landscape but the cultures within that landscape, and its creation has generated a good deal of research into Louisiana history and culture by Spitzer and others. The initial baseline document of this research was the Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview (1979). The public has also been made increasingly aware of folklife through festivals such as the Natchitoches Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival records, such as two produced by Spitzer, La-La: Louisiana Black French Music and Zodico: Louisiana Creole Music, and those produced by the state with the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern; and museum exhibitions, including several at the Louisiana State Museum of New Orleans, most recently a major one organized in 1981 by Vaughn L. Glasgow and Tabatha Rossetter featuring Acadian weaving. A broader exhibit of this type was organized by the Alexandria Museum in 1981. Entitled "Doing it Right and Passing It On: North Louisiana Folk Crafts." it was researched by H.F. Gregory and his graduate students as well as Susan Roach-Lankford. And the mass media has turned its attention to folklife as a number of film makers, such as Les Blank and Steve Duplantier, record folk culture on film or as television and radio shows, such as Louisiana Public Broadcasting's magazine format show, "Louisiana Alive," and National Public Radio's "Bon Cher Camarade: Cajun and Creole Music of Southwest Louisiana" bring Louisiana folk culture into countless living rooms. Thus a variety of new forces may shape folklife studies in Louisiana as we proceed further into the future.15


1. The standard bibliographic source for Southern travel writings is Clark (1956-59).

2. Information of Le Page has been drawn from the excellent introduction by Joseph G. Tregle, Jr. to a 1975 edition of Le Page's work (Tregle 1975).

3. Biographical and critical works on Cable include Elstrom (1950), Bikle (1928), Rubin (1969), Butcher (1962), and Turner (1966).

4. The last two articles are reprinted in Goodman (1949:268-281); for references to Hearn's newspaper and periodical publications see Perkins and Perkins (1934).

5. Information on Hearn has been drawn from Kunst (1969), Stevenson (1961), Perkins and Perkins (1934), and Tinker (1924). McNeil (1978) does specifically consider Hearn as a folklorist, though he gives little attention to Hearn's Louisiana interests.

6. Hurston wrote an autobiography (1942), and biographical information can also be found in Hemenway (1977), Gloster (1943), Byrd (1955), Blake (1960), and Lomax (1960).

7. For information on Kniffen, plus a way of conceptualizing Kniffen's work and significance, I am indebted to an unpublished paper by David Stanley (n.d.).

8. The project is the subject of a dissertation which has been the source of much of my information (Clayton 1974). Several of the photographers who documented folklife during the Depression for the Farm Security Administration, Russell Lee, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post Wolcott, worked in Louisiana. Of course a number of other photographers, such as Elmore Morgan, have taken important folklife-related photos, but the history of documentary photography in the state is beyond the intended scope of this essay.

9. See, for example, Botkin (1945) and Brown (1978).

10. One might add that several Louisiana artists, such as Caroline Durieux, who was connected with the Writer's Project as an illustrator, and John McCrady, connected with the Federal Art Project, produced works which used folkloric subjects. Durieux, in particular, provided drawings for Gumbo Ya-Ya.

11. Oster has published a brief account of his Louisiana years (Oster 1978).

12. My account of the Louisiana Folk Foundation is based on several Newport Folk Festival programs as well as a personal communication from Ralph Rinzler.

13. See Louisiana Folklore Newsletter 2 (May 1984):4.

14. Another recent UT folklore/anthropology doctoral candidate, Tom Ireland, has been active in New Orleans.

15. In addition to the various sources cited I have had the benefit of personal communications from Herbert Halpert, Jay D. Edwards, Nicholas Spitzer, Patricia Rickels, and Ralph Rinzler.


Abboud, Elaine J. "The Evil Eye among the Syrian-Lebanese of New Orleans." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(4)(1968):56-61.

Ancelet, Barry. "Louisiana Acadian-French Joke Lore." Revue de Louisiane/Louisiana Review 4(2)(1975):53-54.

_____. "Talking Pascal in Mamou: A Study in Folkloric Competence." Journal of the Folklore Institute 17(1980):1-24.

Ancelet, Barry and Ryder, Barbara. "Three Acadian Folktales." Revue de Louisiane/Louisiana Review 3(1)(1974):38-42.

Anderson, John Q. "Folklore in The Writing of 'The Louisiana Swamp Doctor'." Southern Folklore Quarterly 19(1955):243-351.

_____. "Some Mystical Places in Louisiana." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1958):1-10.

_____. "Folkways in Writing about Northeast Louisiana before 1865." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 1(4)(1960):18-32.

_____. Odd Leaves from The Life of a Louisiana Swamp Doctor. LSU Press, Baton Rouge, ed. 1961a.

_____. "Folklore in Two Northeast Louisiana Novels." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(1)(1961b):28-43.

Bacot, H. F. Louisiana Folk Art. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1972.

Barrois, Julie. "Herb Cures in an Isolated Black Community in the Florida Parishes." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1)(1970):25-27,

Berquin-Duvallon. Travels in Louisiana and the Floridas. Trans. John Davis. Rilev, New York 1806.

Bikle, Lucy Leffingwell Cable. George W. Cable: His Life and Letters. Scribner's, New York 1928.

Blake, Emma L. "Zora Neale Hurston: Author and Folklorist." Negro History Bulletin 29(1966):149-150.

Blake, Emma L. "Zora Neale Hurston: Author and Folklorist." Negro History Bulletin 29(1966):149-150.

Blanchet, Catherine. "Acadian Instrumental Music." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1)(1970):70-75.

Botkin, B. A. Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery. University of Chicago Press Chicago, 1945.

Brandon, Elizabeth. "Moeurs et Langue de la paroisse Vermilion." Doctoral dissertation Laval University, 1955.

_____. "L' Alouette - A Functional Song." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 4(1976-80):116-121.

Brown, Hugh St. "Voodooism in Northwest Louisiana." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(2)(1965):74-86.

Brown, Lorin W. Hispano Folklife of New Mexico: The Louis W. Brown Federal Writers' Project Manuscripts. With Charles L Briggs and Marta Weigle. University of New Mexico Press Albuquerque, 1978.

Burns, Anna C. "Superstitions from Old Louisiana Sawmill Towns." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 4(1976-80):124-128.

Bushnell, David I. The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1909.

_____. "Myths of the Louisiana Choctaw." American Anthropologist 12(1910):526-535.

Butcher, Philip. George W. Cable. Twayne, New York, 1962.

Byrd, James W. "Zora Neale Hurston: A Novel Folklorist." Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 21(1955):37-41.

Cable, George Washington. "Creole Slave Dances: The Dance in Place Congo." Century 31 (1886a):517-532.

_____. "Creole Slave Songs." Century 31(1886b):807-828.

_____. "New Orleans." St. Nicholas 21(1893):40-49,150-154.

Carbo, Terry M. "Faith Healing Beliefs of a New Orleans Family." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(4)(1968):91-100.

Castellanos. Henry C. New Orleans as It Was: Episodes of Louisiana Life. George F. Reinecke ed. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1978.

Chopin, Kate, The Awakening. Margaret Culley, ed. Norton, New York, 1976.

Clark, Thomas D. Travels in the Old South: A Bibliography. 3 vols. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1956-59.

Claudel, Calvin. "Golden Hair." Southern Folklore Quarterly 5(1941):257-263.

_____. "A Study of Two French Tales From Louisiana." Southern Folklore Quarterly 7(1943):223-231.

_____. "History of The Louisiana Folklore Association." Southern Folklore Quarterly 8(1944):11-21.

_____. "A Study of Louisiana French Folktales in Avoyelles Parish." Doctoral dissertation University of North Carolina, 1947.

_____. Fools and Rascals: Louisiana Folktales. Legacy, Baton Rouge, 1978.

Clayton, Ronnie Wayne. "A History of the Federal Writers' Project in Louisiana." Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State University, 1974.

Comeaux, Malcolm. "Settlement and Folk Occupation of the Atchafalaya Basin." Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State University, 1969.

_____. "The Cajun Accordion." Review de Louisiane/Louisiana Review 7(2)(1978):117-128.

de Caro, Francis A. "Hyatt's Hoodoo Odyssey - A Review Article." Revue de Louisiane/Louisiana Review 3(1974):29-38.

deCaro, F. A. and R. A. Jordan. Louisiana Traditional Crafts. Louisiana State University Union, Baton Rouge, 1980.

Del Sesto, Steven L. "Cajun Music and Zydeco." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 4(1976-80):88-101.

Ditchy, Jay K. Les Acadiens Louisianais et leur parler. Droz, Paris, 1932.

Dorsey, George Amos. Traditions of the Caddo. Carnegie Institution, Washington, 1905.

Dumont de Montigny, Louis Francois Benjamin "Historical Memoire on Louisiana." Unpublished typescript. Trans. Olivia Balchard Survey of Federal Archives in Louisiana. Baton Rouge, 1937-38.

Ekstrom, Kiell. George Washington Cable: A Study of His Early Life and Work. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1950.

Federal Writers' Project. New Orleans City Guide. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1938.

Firmin, Gloria. "Some Magical Practices among New Orleans Blacks." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(4)(1975):42-46.

Fortier, Alcée. "Customs and Superstitions of Louisiana." Journal of American Folklore 1(1888):136-140.

_____. "Louisiana Nursery Tales." Journal of American Folklore 1(1888-1889)140-145; 2:36-40.

_____. Louisiana Studies. F. F. Hansell and Bros New Orleans, 1894.

_____. Louisiana Folk-Tales, in French and English Translation. American Folklore Society, Boston, 1895.

Garvin, Richard M., and Edmond G. Addeo. The Midnight Special: The Legend of Leadbelly. B. Geis. New York, 1971.

Gatschet, Albert S. The Shetimasha Indians of St. Mary's Parish, Southern Louisiana. Washington, 1883.

Gloster, Hugh M. "Zora Neale Hurston, Novelist and Folklorist." Phylon 4(1943):153-159.

Goodman, Henry, ed. The Selected Writings of Lafcadio Hearn. Citadel, New York, 1949.

Gregory, H. F. "Africa in the Delta." Louisiana Studies 1(1962):16-23.

_____. "The Black River Commercial Fisheries: A Study in Cultural Geography." Louisiana Studies 5(1966):3-36.

Gueymard, Ernest. "Louisiana's Creole-Acadian Cuisine." Revue de Louisiane/Louisiana Review 2(2)(1973):8-19.

Haas, Mary Rosamond. "Southeastern Indian Folklore." Journal of American Folklore 60(1936):403-406.

_____. Tunica Texts. University of California, Berkley, ed. 1950.

Harling, Kristie. "The Grunch: An Example of New Orleans Teen-Age Folklore." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(2)(1971):15-20.

Hearn, Lafcadio. La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes. Hansell, New Orleans, 1885a.

_____. "Gumbo Zhebes": Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs. Coleman, New York, 1885b.

_____. Two Years in the French West Indies. Harper, New York, 1890.

Hemenway, Robert E. Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1977.

Hurston, Zora Neale "Hoodoo In America." Journal of American Folklore 44(1931):317-417.

_____. Mules and Men. Lippincott. Philadelphia, 1935.

_____. Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1942.

Hyatt, Harry Middleton. Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, Rootwork. 5 vols. Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation, 1970-78, n.p.

Johnson. Stephen F. "The Lomaxes." Unpublished paper, n.d.

Keaty, Lucille, "The Work of Alcée Fortier." Master's thesis, Louisiana State University, 1929.

Kniffen, Fred B. "Louisiana House Types." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 26(1936):179-193.

_____. The Indians of Louisiana. LSU College of Education, Baton Rouge, 1945.

_____. "A Spanish (?) Spinner in Louisiana." Southern Folklore Quarterly 13(1949):192-199.

_____. "The Western Cattle Complex." Western Folklore 12(1953):179-185.

_____. "The Outdoor Oven in Louisiana." Louisiana History 1(1960):25-35.

_____. "The Physiognomy of Rural Louisiana." Louisiana History 4(1963):291-299.

_____. "Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55(1965):549-577.

Kniffen, Fred B. and Henry Glassie. "Building in Wood in the Eastern United States: A Time-Place Perspective." Geographical Review 56(1966):40-66.

Knipmeyer, William B. "Settlement Succession in Eastern French Louisiana." Doctoral Dissertation, LSU, 1956.

Krehbiel, Henry Edward. Afro-American Folksongs: A Study in Racial and National Music. Schirmer, New York.

Kunst, Arthur E. Lafcadio Hearn. Twayne, New York, 1969.

Lagarde, Marie-Louise, William S. Chute, and George F. Reinecke. "Six Avoyelles Songs from the Saucier Collection." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(2)(1965):1-26.

Landry, Julie B. "Faisande." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(4)(1968):62-68.

Lomax, Alan. "Zora Neale Hurston - A Life of Negro Folklore." Sing Out! 10(1960):12-13.

Lomax, John Avery. Adventures of a Ballad Hunter. Macmillan, New York, 1947.

Lomax, John Avery and Alan Lomax. Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly. Macmillan, New York, 1936.

MacCurdy, Raymond R. Jr. "Spanish Folklore from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana." Southern Folklore Quarterly 13(1949):180-191.

_____. "Spanish Folklore from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana: Part III, Folktales." Southern Folklore Quarterly 16(1952):227-250.

Mc Neil. W. K. "Lafcadio Hearn, American Folklorist." Journal of American Folklore 91(1978):947-967.

Martin, Joan M. "Mardi Gras Indians, Past and Present." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(3)(1973):51-55.

Miner, Allison. "The Mardi Gras Indians." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(3)(1973):48-50.

Newton, Milton B. "The Peasant Farm of St. Helena Parish, Louisiana." Doctoral dissertation, LSU, 1967.

_____. Louisiana House Types. LSU School of Geoscience, Baton Rouge, 1971.

Orso, Ethelyn, and Kaveski, Peggy. "Undisclosed Aspects of St. Joseph's Altars." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(5)(1975):14-18.

Oster, Harry. "Easter Rock Revisited: A Study in Acculturation." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1958):21-34.

_____. Living Country Blues. Folklore Associates, Detroit, 1969.

_____. "The Evolution of Folk-Lyric Records." JEMF Quarterly 14(1978):148-150.

Oster. Harry and Reed, Revon. "Country Mardi Gras in Louisiana," Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 1(4)(1960):1-17.

Oukada, Larbi. Louisiana French: An Annotated Linguistic Bibliography. University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, 1979.

Pebworth, Ted-Larry. "Graveyard-Working: The Passing of a Custom." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(1)(1961):44-49.

_____. "Typical Protestant Modesty: Some Folk Cures of North-Central Louisiana." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(2)(1965):87-96.

Perkins, P. D. and Perkins, Ione. Lafcadio Hearn: A Bibliography of His Writings. Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York, 1934.

Post, Lauren C. "Cultural Geography of the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana." Doctoral dissertation, LSU, 1936.

_____. Cajun Sketches from the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana. LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 1962.

_____. "A Recollection of the Bleeding of our Sick Mare by a 'Voodoo Doctor'," :ouisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(5)(1975):6-8.

Pujol, Irene Blanche, trans. Robin's Voyages dans 1'interieure de la Louisiane, Master's thesis, LSU, 1939.

Reinecke, George F. "The New Orleans Twelfth Night Cake." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(2)(1965):45-54.

_____. Early Louisiana French Life and Folklore from the Anonymous Breaux Manuscript. Louisiana Folklore Miscellany (3) (ed. and trans. 1966) Louisiana Folklore Society, New Orleans.

_____. "The Wandering Jew in French Louisiana." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1)(1970a):46-54.

_____. "Mardi-Gras, Chooka Lapai: A Probable Meaning." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(1)(1970b):77-79.

_____. "Proverbial Locutions of New Orleans French." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(2)(1971):34-38.

_____. "Louisiana's Roquelaure, the Spanish Soil; Trick, and Le Momus Francois." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(4)(1975):65-69.

_____. "Creole Traits in Two Louisiana French Novels of the Nineteenth Century." Perspectives on Ethnicity in New Orleans (1980):23-33.

Rickels, Patricia K. "Some Accounts of Witch Riding." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(1)(1961):1-15.

_____. "The Folklore of Sacraments and Sacramentals in South Louisiana." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(2)(1965):27-44.

_____. "The Folklore of the Acadians." In The Cajuns: Essays on their History and Culture. Glen R. Conrad, ed, pp. 240-254. Center for Louisiana Studies. University of Southwestern Louisiana. Lafayette, 1978.

Rappolo, Joseph Patrick "Folklore in Louisiana Drama: A Challenge." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 1(4)(1960):65-81.

Rubin, Louis D. Jr. George W. Cable: The Life and Times of a Southern Heretic. Pegasus. New York. 1969.

Saucier. Corinne L. "Louisiana Folk-Tales and Songs in French Dialect with Linguistic Notes." Master's thesis. George Peabody College. Nashville, 1923.

_____. History of Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. Pelican, New Orleans, 1943.

_____. Traditions de la paroisse des Avoyelles en Louisiane. American Folklore Society, Philadelphia, 1956.

_____. "The Ups and Downs of Collecting Folklore in Avoyelles Parish: An Informal Address to the Louisiana Folklore Society, April 19, 1958." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(1)(1961):78-81.

_____. French Folk Tales of Louisiana. Exposition, New York, 1962.

Saxon, Lyle, Dreyer, Edward and Tallant, Robert, eds. Gumbo Ya-Ya: A Collection of Louisiana Folk Tales. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1945.

Severance, Kathleen. "Crosses on Iron Skillets: Thrash Cures from Black Lake Swamp." Louisiana Studies 9(1970):208-216.

Shrell, Darwin. "A Review of Louisiana Folklore Society Activities." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 1(4)(1960):82-87.

Smith, Ethel La Borde and Orso, Ethelyn. "Roquelaure: An Acadian Trickster." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(3)(1973):25-31.

Smith, Ethel La Borde and Orso, Ethelyn. "Roquelaure: An Acadian Trickster." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 3(3)(1973):25-31.

Spitzer, Nicholas R. (ed.) Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview. National Park Service, New Orleans, 1979

Stanley, David. "Fred Kniffen (1900- )." Unpublished paper, n.d.

Stevenson, Elizabeth. Lafcadio Hearn. Macmillan, New York. 1961.

Stokes, G. A. "The 'Single Pen' Log Cabin." Louisiana Studies 2(1963):54-55.

Stuck, Goodloe R. "Log Houses in Northwest Louisiana." Louisiana Studies 10(1971):225-237.

Swanton, John R. "Mythology of the Indians of Louisiana and the Texas Coast." Journal of American Folklore 20(1907):285-289.

_____. The Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Gulf Coast. Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1911.

_____. Myths and Tales of the Southeastern Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington. 1929. Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1946.

Tapley, Philip A. "Negro Superstitions in Children of Strangers." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 4(1976-80):61-72.

Taylor, James W. "The Agricultural Settlement Succession on the Prairies of Southwest Louisiana," Doctoral dissertation. LSU, 1956.

Tinker, Edward Larocque. Lafcadio Hearn's American Days. Dodd Mead, New York, 1924.

_____. "Mother Catherine's Castor Oil: Visiting the High Priestess of a Negro Cult in New Orleans." North American 230(1930):148-154.

_____. Gumbo, the Creole Dialect of Louisiana. American Antiquarian Society, Worcester. Massachusetts. 1935.

_____. New Yorker Unlimited. University of Texas Press, Austin, 1970.

Tregle, Joseph G. Jr., ed. The History of Louisiana, Translated from the French of M. Le Page du Pratz. Louisiana State University, 1975.

Turner, Arlin. George W. Cable. LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 1966.

Villere, Sidney, Alciatore, Roy and Reinecke, George. "A Nineteenth Century Creole Menu and Its Proverbs." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(4)(1968):105-110.

Voorhies, Felix. Acadian Reminiscences, with the True Story of Evangeline. Palmer, Boston. 1907.

Wagner, Irene C. "Corinne L(elia) Saucier: A Tribute." Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 2(1)(1961):69-78.

White, Vallie Tinsiey "Some Folklore from North Louisiana." Southern Folklore Quarterly 20:164-177.

Whitfield, Irene Therese. Louisiana French Folk Songs. LSU Press, Baton Rouge, 1939.

Wright, Martin "Log Culture in Hill Louisiana." Doctoral dissertation, LSU, 1956.

Writers' Program of the Works Progress Administration. Louisiana: A Guide to the State. Hastings House Publishers, New York, 1941.