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Benjamin A. Botkin Prize

Each year, the Public Programs Section of the American Folklore Society joins with the AFS Executive Board to award the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize of $1000 to an individual for significant lifetime achievement in public folklore.

This prize is given in recognition of the work of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975). Eminent New Deal-era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938-1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1942 to 1945, Botkin has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

How to Apply

The review criteria are:

  • Engagement of a broad public audience in the materials of folklore
  • Impact on the field of public folklore: development of models, methodology, visibility, advocacy
  • Impact on communities/constituents and their traditional culture
  • Contributions to the body of materials of folklore/public folklore
  • Quality of artistry in presentation: writing, photography, stagecraft, etc.
  • Quality of scholarship
  • Impact on the discipline of folklore, its theories and methodology
  • Quality/adequacy of nomination package itself 
  • Breadth of support, as evidenced by letters from community members and non-folklorists in addition to folklore colleagues

The deadline for nominations is September 15. Please submit your nomination via the AFS prize application form.  You should direct questions to Botkin Prize Committee via [email protected].

Nominations must be submitted through the application form and the complete packet must be submitted as a single PDF as a supporting document, including a letter of nomination, a one- or two-page biography or resume of the nominee, and three to five letters of support from a broad range of people, including community members who have benefitted from the nominee’s work and people from outside the folklore field in addition to colleagues. Letters should specifically address the review criteria listed above and should explain how the nominee has taken folklore to a broad public audience.

Nominations remain active for five years. Previous nominators should contact Amanda Dargan to ensure that their nominations are still in the pool and to arrange to make any additions or updates to previous nominations.

2023 Botkin Award Committee
Amanda Dargan, 2019 recipient (1 year left)
Marsha MacDowell, 2020 recipient (chair)
Charish Bishop, PPS Student representative (1 year left)
Vanessa Navarro Maza, South Florida Folklife Center (2 years left)
Karen Abdul-Malik (2 years left)
Mark Miyake, Western Washington University (2 years left)
Eric Cesar Morales, Philadelphia Folklore Project (1 year left)

Past Benjamin A. Botkin Prize Recipients:

Bess Lomax Hawes, folklore scholar, performer, and advocate, formerly of the National Endowment for the Arts (1994)

Archie Green, folklore scholar and advocate-at-large (1995)

Jane Beck, founder of the Vermont Folklife Center (1996)

Dan Sheehy formerly of the National Endowment for the Arts (and now of the Smithsonian Institution) and Joe Wilson of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (1997)

Jim Griffith, formerly of the Southwest Folklife Center at the University of Arizona (1998)

Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (1999)

Bobby Fulcher of the Tennessee State Parks (2000)

Hal Cannon of the Western Folklife Center (2001)

Robert Baron of the New York State Council for the Arts and Nick Spitzer of Tulane University (2002)

Alan Jabbour of Washington, DC, formerly of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (2003)

Jens Lund, Independent Folklorist, Olympia, Washington (2004)

James Leary of the University of Wisconsin (2005)

Elaine Thatcher, Independent Folklorist, Logan, Utah (2006)

Steve Zeitlin of City Lore, New York City (2007)

Yvonne Lockwood, formerly of the Michigan State University Museum (2008)

Elaine Eff, Independent Folklorist, Baltimore, Maryland (2009)

Carol Edison, Independent Folklorist, Salt Lake City, Utah (2010)

Peggy A. Bulger, formerly of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, and Amy Skillman, Independent Folklorist, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (2011)

Bob Gates, formerly of the Kentucky Folklife Program, and Ethel Raim of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (2012)

Paddy Bowman, Local Learning, Alexandria, Virginia, and Kay Turner of the Brooklyn Arts Council (2013)

Roby Cogswell, Tennessee Arts Commission (2014)

Maida Owens, Louisiana Division of the Arts (2015)

Andrea Graham, University of Wyoming (2016)

Kathleen Mundell, Camden, Maine (2017)

Maggie Holtzberg, Boston, Massachusetts (2018)

Amanda Dargan, City Lore (2019)

Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University Museum (2020)

Varick A. Chittenden and Teresa Hollingsworth (2021)

Simon Lichman, Centre for Creativity and Education in Cultural Heritage (2022)

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