New AFS Section Prize, the John Wesley Work III Award, Celebrates African American Traditional Culture

AFS News, Calls for Submissions, Prizes
Black and white headshot of John Wesley Work III, a roughly middle-aged African American man in a suit, tie and vest, with short hair and a small mustache

In advance celebration of the upcoming Juneteenth, the AFS African American Folklore Section is proud to issue the first call for submissions for the new John Wesley Work III Award, which the section has launched to honor and spotlight applied folklorists, ethnographers, and ethnomusicologists who actively focus on the research, documentation, recording, and highlighting of African American culture through performance, written word, and music in their scholarly works. 

The prize is named for John Wesley Work III, a composer, ethnomusicologist, educator, and choral director who was devoted to documenting the progression of Black musical expression. His notable collections of traditional and emerging African American music include Negro Folk Songs, the Archive of American Folk Song on the Library of Congress/Fisk University Mississippi Delta Collection (AFC 1941/002), and the Stovall Plantation recordings for the Library of Congress where the world is introduced to blues legend McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters. 

In honor of Work, this award is offered to celebrate and encourage African American traditional cultural expression and galvanize folklorists, ethnographers and ethnomusicologists of color to participate in the documentation of African American folklife. 

The winner will receive a $500 award to support participation in the AFS Annual Meeting, preferably in 2022. The section will work with the winner to create a platform for presentation of the winner’s work, hopefully including a presentation at the 2022 section business meeting, and showcasing the work in all relevant AFS communication channels. The section will also work with the winner to arrange an opportunity to consult with a specialist at the Library of Congress or another subject expert. 

All are welcome to apply, including those who are not members of AFS or the section. The prize committee will be looking for expertise, promise, or sustained effort in the preservation, study, or transmission of African American folklife. Applicants must demonstrate active participation in the study or documentation of African American expression, whether through audio recordings, podcasts, written essays, publishing in scholarly journals, video production, manuscripts, performance, or any other area of cultural production. We encourage submissions from academics, community and independent scholars, professionals, and performer/scholars, especially African American applicants.

The winner will be announced at the 2022 AFS Annual Meeting in Tulsa.

Section Sponsorship

Beginning this year, the section asks members to contribute an annual dues payment of $15 in order to support this important work. Though anyone may freely participate in the section, section dues payments will be essential to sustain this annual award. Reliable dues contributions may make it possible to offer additional need-based financial assistance as necessary to support the winner’s participation in the annual meeting.

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