Abingdon Native Pens Article in Music Publication
Eleanor Roosevelt & White Top Folk Music Festival
February 01, 2010ABINGDON, VA — An article written by Abingdon native Christa Smith Anderson appears in Oxford American's 2009 Music Issue. The annual publication includes a CD and will be on newsstands through March 2010.
Christa says, "While researching Eleanor Roosevelt's 1933 visit to the White Top Folk Music Festival to write a few scenes for my novel, I looked at the Blue Ridge Institute's collection of festival photographs at Ferrum College and read David Whisnant's book 'All That Is Native and Fine,' which has a whole section about the White Top Folk Music Festival. When I read that, especially Whisnant's account of how black musicians were excluded from the festival and how performers weren't allowed to do certain things — like include any jazz flavor in their performances — I became curious about how and why Eleanor Roosevelt ended up there, since she was one of the most outspoken civil rights advocates of the 20th century."
She adds, "I also thought it was fascinating that while the Carter Family was putting together the songs that would be the foundation of American country music for generations to come, there were people making a concerted effort to make sure what they were doing was not going to define American music. So what the Carter Family was doing — blending all kinds of music from people no matter their color — was controversial to some people."
Christa continues, "All of these things, including what I would eventually learn about Eleanor's very personal connection to Abingdon, made me realize I had to write the nonfiction before I could keep going with my novel. And I felt like the Oxford American Music Issue was the perfect place to go with it. The magazine's editor sets out to find great songs or artists that, for one reason or another, didn't get the recognition they deserved."
The 2009 Music Issue has received a lot of media attention. Christa says, "The music gets the lion's share of the media coverage — hence, all of the radio coverage from San Diego to New York. The best feature so far, in my opinion, has been NPR's "All Things Considered" program."
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Eleanor Roosevelt (standing, center) posed with White Top Folk Festival contestants Frank Blevins (fiddle), Jack Reedy (banjo), Edd Blevins (guitar), and six-year-old mandolin sensation, Muriel Dockery, in 1933.( Photo from Library of Virginia archives)