The music and dances of southern Appalachia have often been portrayed as culture that was brought to the U.S. from the British Isles. These traditions, in fact, have multicultural roots. They are a blend of earlier European, African, and Native American traditions, and they reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of America. In this Martin Luther King Day workshop, we identify some of the many contributions of African Americans to these uniquely “American” traditions.
Phil Jamison is nationally known as a dance caller, old-time musician, flatfoot dancer, and scholar of traditional Appalachian dance. A 2017 inductee to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, he has called dances, performed, and taught at music festivals and dance events throughout the U.S. and overseas since the early 1970s, including forty years as a member of the Green Grass Cloggers.
Over the last thirty years, Jamison has done extensive research in the area of Appalachian dance, and his book Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2015) tells the story behind the square dances, step dances, reels, and other forms of dance practiced in southern Appalachia. He has given numerous presentations on Appalachian dance—from the Smithsonian Institution to the US Embassy in Beijing, China. He teaches Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College, in Asheville, North Carolina, where for twenty-five years, he served as coordinator of the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.