7 july 1968 & rev frederick douglass kirkpatrick @folklife festival
#OTD 7 July 1968 Reverend Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick led fellow performers and the crowd in song at the final evening of the 2nd annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Kirkpatrick, who worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was active in the Poor People's Campaign and Resurrection City, chose the song "This Little Light of Mine."
On the stage with Kirkpatrick were more than 25 performers, including two mariachi bands and Ace Reid, a white Texan storyteller. Kirkpatrick prefaced the song by saying that the festival was important because of the possibility in helping to "heal the racial wounds in this land" and asking the audience to "go back home and let your little light shine."
The mariachi bands, who were not named, didn't participate because they didn't sing in English in public.
Reid, on the other hand, walked off the stage in protest because he didn't feel that talk of "race" or "civil rights" had a place at the festival.
It is important to note that a Washington Post article titled "Talk on Race Irks Festival Performer" belies Reid's own invocation of "race" at the festival. He is quoted in the article as stating, "Well, it sure is nice to be here in Washington, D.C., with all the coonies and redmen."
He was booed.
Your comments are welcome below. Did you, family members and neighbors attend the final concert? Do you remember the song? What do you remember about it? Were you one of the performers? Do you know the names of the mariachi bands and the performers? Were you a volunteer or staff member? You may comment privately here.
Photo source: Courtesy Smithsonian Institution. © Robert Houston, photographer. May 21, 1968-June 23, 1968
"Folklife Festival Draws Nearly 500,00 to the Mall," Evening Star 8 July 1968.
"Talk on Race Irks Festival Performer," Washington Post 9 July 1968.