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{SPEAKER name="Ann Carroll"}
Afro-American folk culture — a study in survival. This is Smithsonian Galaxy. I'm Ann Carroll. All over the country in recent years we've seen a new flowering of ethnic pride. No longer a melting pot, America is now seen as a mosaic, a checkerboard of contributions by immigrants from England or Poland or Japan. And now a new exhibit, organized for the Cleveland Museum of Art, by Professor John Michael Vlach, fills in the remaining blank.

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{SPEAKER name="John Michael Vlach"}
When historians have heretofore looked at Africa, they said, 'Well, they came empty-handed, or empty-headed.' That just isn't true. There has been survival. We haven't seen it as well as we should have until now.

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{SPEAKER name="Ann Carroll"}
Currently at the Smithsonian, after touring six cities, the exhibit points out the African influences on Afro-American decorative arts. From basketry to music, quilting to architecture, the threads aren't always obvious. The great tradition of African sculpture, for instance, found new expression in the New World.

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{SPEAKER name="John Michael Vlach"}
The only sculpture that would make it in this new context where there's a lot of prohibition, they're only allowed to be decorative in a way that white masters accept as being worthwhile, and that would be on a walking stick, rather than making a statue to venerate an ancestor or to appeal to an African deity.

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{SPEAKER name="Ann Carroll"}
Slave owners also prohibited the making of drums, for fear that they would be used to send messages. But the exhibit includes a rice mortar that was good for more than husking rice.

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{SPEAKER name="John Michael Vlach"}
You could take and stretch a leather cover over the rice mortar, and when the master isn't around you could actually have a full-fledged drum, so that we have an adaptive strategy there — a way to beat the system.

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{SPEAKER name="Ann Carroll"}
Professor Vlach also says that the shotgun house, with its narrow design common to millions of row-houses, had its beginnings in Africa, as did the popular banjo.

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{SPEAKER name="John Michael Vlach"}
I think it's shocking, and I think it's important, that we can say, 'Wait a minute. Those white bluegrass musicians who play at old-time fiddle contests are in fact perpetuating an African tradition.'

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{SPEAKER name="Ann Carroll"}
Professor John Michael Vlach spent years researching the exhibit, for he feels that much racism stems from the lack of this kind of knowledge. Now, he says, it's time to give credit where credit is due. Reporting from the Smithsonian Institution, I'm Ann Carroll.
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Transcription Notes:
John Michael Vlach confirmed via Google

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