Archie Green (June 29, 1917 – March 22, 2009)
Was an American folklorist specializing in laborlore (defined as the special folklore of workers) and American folk music. Devoted to understanding vernacular culture, he gathered and commented upon the speech, stories, songs, emblems, rituals, art, artifacts, memorials, and landmarks which constitute laborlore. He is credited with winning Congressional support for passage of the American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-201), which established the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.
Early Life and Work
Born Aaron Green in Winnipeg, Manitoba he moved with his parents to Los Angeles, California in 1922. He grew up in southern California, began college at UCLA, and transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, from which he received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1939. He joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and spent his year of service in a camp on the Klamath River as a road builder and firefighter. He then worked in the San Francisco shipyards and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America for over sixty-seven years and was a Journeyman Shipwright. His pro-labor orientation owed much to his upbringing. His parents were Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants from Chernigov, where his father had participated in the uprising against the Russian czar in 1905. When that revolution failed, they escaped to Canada. In the U.S., Green's father, a socialist, supported Eugene Debs, the campaign of Upton Sinclair for governor of California in 1934, and became a supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. While living in Los Angeles, Green regularly heard political speeches in Pershing Square. Describing himself as an “anarcho-syndicalist with strong libertarian leanings,” or a “left-libertarian,” Green combined a sensitivity for working people, an abiding concern for democratic processes, and a pragmatic willingness to lobby for reforms. He spent his career not only collecting material from laborers, but encouraging workers themselves to document and preserve their own lore.
In 1942 Green purchased the album Work Songs of the U.S.A. performed by folk singer Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter. His love of music and especially the song "Old Man" sparked his interest in folkloristics, but it was to be nearly two decades before he returned to formal academia.