Mississippi Delta Survey 1941–1942

1941 to 1942
United States
27 hours of recordings were made in the summers of 1941 and 1942 under the auspices of a creative collaboration between the Library of Congress and Nashville’s Fisk University, the purpose of which was to investigate social and cultural change in the African-American communities of Coahoma County, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta, undergoing rapid change due to increasing outward migration and the industrial war effort. The key players were Fisk’s John W. Work III, who served as the presiding musicologist; sociologist Lewis Jones, also at Fisk, and Alan Lomax, folklorist and recordist, representing the Library. Lomax and Jones collected some 27 hours of it over three weeks in the late summers of 1941 and ’42. As their investigation was into both urban and rural, the black professional to the tenant farmer, the recordings ran the gamut: sacred and secular, old and new. The sacred recordings were collected across a spectrum of denominations and churches: From a revival service as part of the Mississippi Baptist Convention—adequately described by John Work to be “very ordinary and unexciting”—but nonetheless an extensive document of the proceedings, with announcements, sermons, testimonies, group and solo hymn singing, to the ecstatic spirituals and shouts by the holiness congregation at the Mohead Plantation, at Moon Lake near Lula, Mississippi. This collection also includes recordings made in Nashville, Tennessee, by John Work, and in Arkansas and Medon, Tennessee by Lewis Jones and Alan Lomax.
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