The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation hosted “Angola Bound Revisited: Prison Music of Louisiana,” a daylong symposium on the grounds of Angola Penitentiary.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said in words,” said Dr. Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, project director for the symposium. “Prison music gives a glimpse into the world of the incarcerated, which cannot be accessed any other way. Even before Angola the prison, Angola the plantation gives the music a rich and transformative history through the work songs handed down from slavery and used by the prisoners, first under the lease system as they worked the fields, and later during the early 20th century.”
Attendees also celebrated the opening of a new and expanded prison music exhibition at the penitentiary’s museum. The symposium and exhibition were supported by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Nick Spitzer, host of the American Routes radio show and professor at Tulane University, led discussions on folklorists John and Alan Lomax and Lead Belly, Harry Oster’s collection of 1950’s recordings from Angola, and the story of jazz at the prison.
Following the symposium, prisoner bands The Jazzmen, Angola’s Most Wanted, The Main Prison Gospel Band, Pure Heart Messengers, Little Country, and Final Mission performed on the Angola rodeo grounds.