Jay Bird Singing

Lomax, John A, Ruby T Lomax, Irene Williams, and Mrs Tailor. Interview with Irene Williams, Rome, Mississippi, Octoberpart 3 of 3. Rome, Mississippi, 1940. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/afc1940003_afs04018a/.

Photo: Lomax, Ruby T, photographer. Irene Williams, J.E. Grant Plantation, near Rome, Mississippi. Mississippi Rome United States, 1940. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2015645809/.

Voices of the Past

Irene Williams is featured in the Library of Congress digital collection Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Story. She shares several songs, including Come Butter Come and Drink Water featured on this website. Ask students to consider what we can learn from hearing from former slaves, rather than just about them. What voices should be preserved in our present-day world? What can students do to ensure their voices are heard and shared?

Creative Movement

In Lomax's field notes, Williams recollects, "I played we linked up. And one at the foot of start singing and I said, when I said 'house' then one stood yonder and everybody go on each other arm. And go around in one another and then we link up again. Then we go singing."

None of Williams' songs contain the word "house," and her description follows Jay Bird on the recording. Her description is an enigma, but a creative starting point for inventing a movement game to accompany the song. Inspired by the song and description, informed by other experiences in folk dance, what movements will your students create?