…with the formation of Folkways Records I started the more intense catalog of protest songs, workers songs, protest poetry, documentation, etcetera.

Moses Asch

Activist Engagement and Social Relevance

Reading through the titles of the Folkways catalogue is like reading the table of contents of a book on American activism. The union movement and the civil rights movement, including the speeches of Dr. King; the Red Scare of the 1950s, the Vietnam War and student protests of the 1960s; gay rights, peace, the environment and the women's movements - all are represented in Folkways.

 
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Lest We Forget, Vol. 2 image1Lest We Forget, Vol. 2 image2Lest We Forget, Vol. 2 image3
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Lest We Forget, Vol. 2

FW05487
1980
Unknown
Charles Moore
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Ralph Abernathy speaking — Ralph Abernathy

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Arms and fists of a group of peaceful civil rights protesters, raised in solidarity, dominate the picture at the top. Below, two scenes - one showing a water cannon, the other, police dogs - serve as reminders of law enforcement's response to such civil rights rallies.

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What If I Am a Woman? image1What If I Am a Woman? image2What If I Am a Woman? image3
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What If I Am a Woman?

FW05537
1977
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Maria W. Stewart, What if I Am a Woman — Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis

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Mary Church Terrel, Frederick Douglass, 1908 — Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis

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The cover engraving portrays Sojourner Truth, who was born a slave and freed in 1827 and who became a powerful voice against slavery and for women's rights. The speeches of African American women on this album include Sojourner Truth's "Woman's Rights," delivered in 1853 and read here by actor and civil rights activist Ruby Dee, introduced by her husband and fellow actor Ossie Davis. Dee and Davis were activists in the Civil Rights movement.

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone

FW31026
1968
Craig Meirop
Irwin Rosenhouse
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Where Have All the Flowers Gone? — Pete Seeger

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A literal, uncomplicated cover design reinforces the message of the title song. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," written in 1961, was based on an Irish tune and inspired by a few lines from an old Russian folk song. It has become one of Pete Seeger's signature songs and remains a simple, eloquent anthem for peace.

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Gay & Straight Together image1Gay & Straight Together image2Gay & Straight Together image3
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Gay & Straight Together

FW08580
1980
Ronald Clyne
Andreas Feininger
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Love Somebody — Ginni Clemmens

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Designer Ronald Clyne remarked that he selected this famous Feininger photo of crowds at Coney Island in order to reinforce the record's title and subject: we are all together, gay and straight, and belong to the larger category of humanity.

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Bertolt Brecht Before the Committee on Un-American Activities

FW05531
1967
Bob McCarron
M. Holmes
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October 30th 1947 pt. 2: The Actual Recording with Added Commentary by Eric Bentley — Bertolt Brecht

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The "red scare" of the post-World War II period in the United States is visualized, literally, in the red tone of the photograph. The album records the questioning of Bertolt Brecht in October 1947 by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Numerous writers, directors and performers, even non-Americans, such as Brecht, were investigated for their alleged communist sympathies.

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Plutonium

FW05354
1979
Ronald Clyne
Sarah Cohen
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Plutonium — Mark Cohen

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Collage is used to combine newspaper headlines, images, and articles with a photograph of singer Mark Cohen. The newspaper snippets reinforce the topicality of the subject and the fragmentary nature of available information concerning accidents in the nuclear industry.

Folkways also documented struggles for international human rights and freedom in speech, music and poetry ranging from songs of the Spanish Civil War to freedom fighters of Algeria.

 
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People's Music: The Struggles of the Greek People

FW05411
1970
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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The Boy with the Sunlit Smile — Maria Farantouri

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In this highly charged image of human suffering, the figures are rendered in jarring shorthand to underscore the pathos of the music by composer and political activist Mikis Theodorakis. During the military dictatorship in Greece (1967-74), his music was banned, and he was incarcerated for staunchly opposing the regime. The album was produced in 1971, the year that an international committee of prominent musicians and writers secured Theodorakis's release, and he went into exile in Paris.

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Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1 image1Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1 image2Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1 image3
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Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1

FW05436
1961
Interdesign
Unknown
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Viva La Quince Brigada (Long Live the 15th Brigade) — Pete Seeger

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The Spanish Civil War is an important subject in this section as it, in effect, represents the beginnings of World War II and the fight against fascism. The fire-scorched photograph documents soldiers of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, American volunteers who fought on the side of the republic against the rebellion led by Franco.

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Freedom Fighters of Algeria

FW05441
1962
Bob McCarron
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Inno Della Resistenza — n/a

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A green star and crescent moon, seen through a tangled web of barbed wire, underline the notion of an oppressed people whose spirit shines through despite adversity. The star, crescent moon, and colour green are references to the Algerian flag, and, in a more general sense, to the traditional symbols of Islam.

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Songs from the Depths of Hell

FW37700
1979
Ronald Clyne
Gertrude Degenhardt
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Kolysanka Dla Synka W Krematorium (Lullaby for My Little Son in the Crematorium) — Aleksander Tytus Kulisiewicz

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The stark, nightmarish figure of the dead child held by the leaning, robed figure in Gertrude Degenhardt's drawing conveys the hopelessness and depth of human misery in the concentration camps. Degenhardt's emotive and highly expressive style takes its impetus from earlier German Expressionist art.

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Ding Dong Dollar

FW05444
1962
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Ban Polaris - Hallelujah! — Glasgow Song Guild

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The cover photograph, taken in the early 1960's, is one of the first to include the peace sign. The use of the symbol originated in 1958 with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain. The group in the photograph is protesting the docking of American nuclear submarines (Polaris subs) in Scotland.

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Songs of the Ghetto image1Songs of the Ghetto image2Songs of the Ghetto image3
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Songs of the Ghetto

FW08739
1965
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Why Need We Cry? — Abraham Brun

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This sepia-like photograph of a Polish ghetto, in which Nazi soldiers preside, relates to the World War II experiences of Abraham Brun, who survived the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. His music is part of a larger project within Folkways: recording the artistic expression of those interned during the Holocaust.

Folkways records were highly topical and anything but mainstream or canonical. The album cover designs reflected the recordings, often representing the radical, the edgy - an art of the people.

 
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From the Cold Jaws of Prison

FW05403
1971
Irwin Rosenhouse
Unknown
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A Word to the Hip — n/a

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The shadowy, outstretched hands in the photograph embody what the liner notes characterize as "a cry of a people for justice and human dignity." This recording was issued in 1971, the year that prisoners at Attica State Prison in New York held a four-day revolt against overcrowding, racism, and inhumane living conditions. The revolt ended when over one thousand state troopers and National Guardsmen stormed the facility, resulting in over forty deaths.

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The Bottom Line

FW38516
1984
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Nuke the Whales — Labor Theater (New York, N.Y.)

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Loosely sketched, cubist-inspired images of musicians merge with the page of a musical score, conveying the sense of playful confusion and irreverence of musicians of the comedy revue. The Labor Theatre (TLT) of New York City, performing mainly in union halls and community auditoriums, "takes the side of working people and presents that view to the world at large" (liner notes).

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Yankee Go Home

FW05282
1975
Ronald Clyne
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Yankee Go Home — Bob Connelly

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Related to graffiti art, the simple cover design, with a message scrawled in chalk, effectively underlines the anti-imperialist stance of Bob Connelly's songs through the use of this compelling, democratic form of visual communication.

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Watergate, Vol. 1

FW05551
1973
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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President Nixon's Watergate Speech, April 30, 1973 — Richard Nixon

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Through the use of a broken faceting of the building's facade, this series of album covers vividly and literally illustrates the public's "shattered" faith in the White House in the wake of the Watergate hearings. Colour and typography provide variation within the otherwise consistent layout of the series.

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Watergate, Vol. 2: The Testimony of Jeb Stuart MacGruder image1Watergate, Vol. 2: The Testimony of Jeb Stuart MacGruder image2Watergate, Vol. 2: The Testimony of Jeb Stuart MacGruder image3
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Watergate, Vol. 2: The Testimony of Jeb Stuart MacGruder

FW05552
1974
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Samuel Dash — Samuel Dash

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Watergate, Vol.3: "I Hope the President is Forgiven" image1Watergate, Vol.3: "I Hope the President is Forgiven" image2Watergate, Vol.3: "I Hope the President is Forgiven" image3
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Watergate, Vol.3: "I Hope the President is Forgiven"

FW05553
1974
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Questioned by Samuel Dash-background, The White House, The Cover-up, The President — Samuel Dash

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Watergate, Vol.4: White House Horrors: The Testimony of John Mitchell, Former Attorney General of the U.S. image1Watergate, Vol.4: White House Horrors: The Testimony of John Mitchell, Former Attorney General of the U.S. image2Watergate, Vol.4: White House Horrors: The Testimony of John Mitchell, Former Attorney General of the U.S. image3
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Watergate, Vol.4: White House Horrors: The Testimony of John Mitchell, Former Attorney General of the U.S.

FW05554
1974
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Senator Weiker: Protecting the President — Lowell Weiker

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Watergate, Vol.5: The Testimony of John Ehrlichman & H. R. Haldeman image1Watergate, Vol.5: The Testimony of John Ehrlichman & H. R. Haldeman image2Watergate, Vol.5: The Testimony of John Ehrlichman & H. R. Haldeman image3
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Watergate, Vol.5: The Testimony of John Ehrlichman & H. R. Haldeman

FW05555
1975
Ronald Clyne
Unknown
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Attacking the Democrats — H.R. Haldeman

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