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John Lomax

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Biography

Goodman, Mississippi, USA (September 23, 1867 – January 26, 1948)

John Avery Lomax (September 23, 1867 - January 26, 1948) was an American teacher, a pioneering , and a folklorist who did much for the preservation of American folk songs. Lomax’s son, Alan Lomax continued the work and became a respected musicologist.

The Lomax family originally came from England in the 18th century when William Lomax settled in a colony in North Carolina. John Lomax was born in Goodman, Mississippi, USA to James Avery Lomax and Susan Frances Cooper. In December 1869, the Lomax family traveled by ox cart from Mississippi to Texas. John Lomax grew up in central Texas, just north of Meridian in rural Bosque County. His father raised horses and cattle and grew cotton and corn on the 183 acres of bottomland he had purchased near the Bosque River. The cowboy songs he was exposed to during his childhood influenced him in such a way that his future choice of career already seemed confirmed. About 1876, the nine-year-old Lomax met and became close friends with Nat Blythe, a former slave who had just been hired as a farmhand by James Lomax. The friendship, “which perhaps gave my life its bent,” lasted three years, and was crucial to Lomax’s early development. Lomax, whose own schooling was sporadic because of the heavy farmwork he was forced to do, taught Blythe to read and write, and Blythe taught Lomax songs like “Big Yam Potatoes on a Sandy Land” and dance steps like “Juba.” When Blyth was twenty-one, he took his savings and left. Lomax never saw him again and heard rumors that he had been murdered. For years afterward, he always looked for Nat when he traveled around the South.

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