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Close-Up of Banjo in The Old Plantation
Banjo Roots and Branches

To many people today, the banjo represents American whiteness. In the mid-1800s, in the hands of blackface minstrel performers, the banjo represented American blackness. Sixty years earlier, it represented Africanness.  What happened?

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Ballad of America preserves and celebrates music from America's diverse cultural history.

The music in America today is part of a continuum that reaches back to Colonial America and stretches across the Atlantic Ocean to the Old World. Music, instruments, and songs tell the story of the ordinary and extraordinary people who have populated the United States and propelled it into the 21st century. Not only do the lyrics directly reflect the hopes, fears, struggles, sorrows, triumphs, and humanity of the real people who lived history, but to follow the path taken by the music itself is to understand the great cultural stew that is the United States of America.

Through this music, you can engage with the strength and beauty that have emerged from the often troubled history of the United States. The genres of music explored through Ballad of America include traditional folk songs, fiddle tunes, ballads (both Old and New World), sea shanties, railroad and cowboy songs, Appalachian, ragtime, spirituals, work songs, minstrel, blues, jazz, jug band, rhythm and blues, old-time, country and western, bluegrass, and rock & roll.