Folklore Matters

Incursions in the Field, 1965–2021

By Bruce Jackson

Subjects: Folklore, African American Studies, Music, American Culture
Hardcover : 9781438496160, 388 pages, February 2024
Paperback : 9781438496153, 388 pages, August 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-08-02

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Table of contents

Introduction: Getting Here

Part I: Scenes

1. Prison Folklore

2. In the Valley of the Shadows

3. In the Arctic with Malaurie

Part II: Outside the Law

4. From In the Life

5. From A Thief 's Primer

Part III: The Folksong Revival

6. The Folksong Revival

7. Skip James: "Skippy been places . . ."

8. Liner Notes: Phil Ochs

Part IV: Black Studies

9. The Glory Songs of the Lord

10. The Other Kind of Doctor: Conjure and Magic in Black American Folk Medicine

11. Foreword to Lydia Parrish, Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands

12. Introduction to The Negro and His Folklore in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals

13. Prison Worksongs: The Composer in Negatives

14. What Happened to Jody

15. The Afro-American Toast and Worksong: Two Dead Genres

Part V: People

16. Benjamin A. Botkin (1901–1975)

17. Remembering Alan Lomax (January 31, 1915–July 19, 2002)

18. Legman: The King of X700

19. In Prison with Pete Seeger

Part VI: The Folklore Business

20. Things That from a Long Way Off Look Like Flies

21. Folkloristics

22. Arctic Silence: Icy Terror in the Heart of the Smithsonian

23. "Only the Sailor Knows the Archipelago"

24. From the Editor: The Humanities at Risk

25. From the Editor: Dead Soldiers and the Arctic Night


Celebrates over a half-century of the work of one of America's greatest folklorists.


Folklore Matters gathers over a half-century of articles, memoirs, field studies, and more by master folklorist Bruce Jackson. Jackson's wide-ranging view of what makes up folklore, his affection for his subjects, and his keen-eyed ability to observe and record without prejudice stories, songs, and lore from everyone from death-row inmates to numbers runners, hustlers, and legendary blues musicians shines through. In his own words, Jackson's essays "bear witness" to worlds that others have too easily ignored. This book includes Jackson's landmark work on prison lore and toasts (the predecessor of rap); labor and criminology; his wide-ranging interest in African American lore and legend; his encounters with legendary figures including Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger; and articles that challenge the many traps and pitfalls that plague much of academic study. Folklore Matters will delight, inform, and inspire all those who value America's deepest traditions and the endless creativity of the unrecognized masters of our national culture.

Bruce Jackson is SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture at University at Buffalo. He is author or editor of more than forty books, including The Story Is True, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories and Ways of the Hand: A Photographer's Memoir, both published by SUNY Press.


"Folklore Matters is a richly deserved salute to Bruce Jackson's unswerving commitment to document and preserve American voices and a challenge to future generations to carry his torch forward." — William Ferris, former Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities

"Bruce Jackson is as comfortable with the blues of traditionalist Skip James and the folk revival passions of Pete Seeger as with the theoretical concerns of Michel Foucault." — Nick Spitzer, Producer of American Routes