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March 25, 2009

RIP: Archie Green, folklorist, father of "laborlore"

The preeminent folklorist of American labor, Archie Green, has died at the age of 91:

Green moved comfortably through the halls of Congress and the halls of ivy, but he preferred life on scaffolding or in a welder's shed or machine shop. Work was where his heart was — doing it and convincing others to document what they did. He coined the term "laborlore" and actively encouraged filmmakers, steel workers and pile drivers, among many others, to keep the stories of working people alive.

Green's infectious enthusiasm and firm belief that labor culture had a place in what he called "a marble mansion" was largely credited with convincing Congress to pass the American Folklife Preservation act of 1976. It established the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. [NPR] (link added)

Green was received a Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress in 2007 for his tireless efforts to document the creativity of working Americans.

More on Green's extraordinary life and work.


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Archie Green
I met Archie in 1962 when he was the faculty advisor to the Univ. of Ill. Campus Folksong Club. Over the next several years he encouraged my participation in the club that lead to my becoming the concert committee chairman bringing artists like Son House and cowboy singer Glenn Orlin to the Champaign-Urbana campus. He even encouraged me to do field recording of Robert Pete Williams, a Louisiana blues singer who, like Leadbelly has sung his way out of jail. I spent an evening with Robt. Pete recording “master-slave” stories donating the tape to the archives. We traveled to Beanblossom, Indiana to hear Bill Monroe and Arkansas for a folk festival. Like others I experienced the infectious enthusiasm of Archie who pushed me to be better and do more. Over the years when in San Francisco we would visit, he’d speak of the changing Castro district and it’s history but even at 89 still had a gleam in his eye and had lost little of his wit and observational skills. His effect on my life has been significant and he will always be fondly remembered.

Bruce Hector M.D.

Bruce, thanks for sharing your memories of a remarkable American.

Thank you both. Thank YOU, Mr. Green.

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