Well of souls : uncovering the banjo's hidden history

by Gaddy, Kristina R.,

Format: Print Book 2022
Availability: Available at 4 Libraries 4 of 4 copies
Available (4)
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CLP - Main Library Second Floor - Non-fiction ML1015.B3 G24 2022
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Second Floor - Non-fiction
Call Number  ML1015.B3 G24 2022
Cooper-Siegel Community Library New Books 787.88 GAD
Location  Cooper-Siegel Community Library
Collection  New Books
Call Number  787.88 GAD
Mt. Lebanon Public Library Non-Fiction 787.8 Gad
Location  Mt. Lebanon Public Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
Call Number  787.8 Gad
Northland Public Library New Books 787.88 G11
Location  Northland Public Library
Collection  New Books
Call Number  787.88 G11

In an extraordinary story unfolding across two hundred years, Kristina Gaddy uncovers the banjo's key role in Black spirituality, ritual, and rebellion. Through meticulous research in diaries, letters, archives, and art, she traces the banjo's beginnings from the seventeenth century, when enslaved people of African descent created it from gourds or calabashes and wood. Gaddy shows how the enslaved carried this unique instrument as they were transported and sold by slaveowners throughout the Americas, to Suriname, the Caribbean, and the colonies that became U.S. states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Maryland, and New York.

African Americans came together at rituals where the banjo played an essential part. White governments, rightfully afraid that the gatherings could instigate revolt, outlawed them without success. In the mid-nineteenth century, Blackface minstrels appropriated the instrument for their bands, spawning a craze. Eventually the banjo became part of jazz, bluegrass, and country, its deepest history forgotten.

The Atlantic Ocean, 1687
Jamaica, 1687
Martinique, 1694
New York, 1736
Maryland, 1758
Jamaica, 1750
Suriname, 1773
South Carolina, 1780s
Cap Franc╠žois, Saint-Domingue, 1782
England, 1787
Albany, New York, 1803
Paramaribo, Suriname, 1816
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1819
Haiti, 1841
Suriname, 1850
Paramaribo, Suriname, 1855
New York City, 1840
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1850
Washington, DC, 1857.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "As the brilliant musician Rhiannon Giddens asks in her foreword, how can the banjo, an instrument "so integral to American culture," be so "badly understood" and "misrepresented"? Fortunately, historian Gaddy brings the rich and complicated history of this seemingly humble instrument to light in this well-researched and equally well-written volume. Exploring the African American roots of the banjo, Gaddy goes further by insisting that its history has been "willfully hidden and distorted." She embarks on a musical journey and a musical detective story that takes her around the world, from slave ships to the former Dutch colony of Suriname to South Carolina to New Orleans to New York. She also discusses the myths surrounding Joel Walker Sweeney, the white man often said to have introduced the banjo to American audiences. The point that Gaddy wants to emphasize is that the banjo is not an African instrument. Rather it is, she asserts, a uniquely American instrument, made by people of African descent. "It is structurally different from any African instrument." Well of Souls is a sometimes sad but more often rousing history illustrated with evocative artwork portraying people, often enslaved, playing the banjo in its many incarnations. This is a glorious and invaluable chronicle for music lovers and everyone interested in American culture."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Additional Information
Subjects Banjo -- History.
Slaves -- America -- Social life and customs.
Slaves -- America -- Social conditions.
Publisher New York, NY :W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.,2022
Edition First edition.
Contributors Giddens, Rhiannon, 1977- writer of foreword.
Language English
Notes Foreword by Rhiannon Giddens.
Description xvii, 284 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-266) and index.
ISBN 9780393866803
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