16 Tons: Limberjacks and American Folk Puppetry

Friday, November 03, 2:30 pm–4:00 pm
Skyline III

Sponsored by the African American Folklore Section

Limberjack puppets have constituted some of the most egregious examples of blackface material characters – a legacy that weighs on American object performance like the proverbial sixteen tons of number nine coal. Yet limberjacks are a folk art form that incorporates elements of object performance traditions from European immigrant groups along with African American and indigenous peoples. This workshop reviews the history of limberjack puppets in the U.S. Participants will then build a simple, cardboard limberjack and celebrate the bonds of solidarity workers of all ethnicities formed in the United Mine Workers of America union while performing Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons.”