The Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation will host “Angola Bound Revisited: Prison Music of Louisiana,” a daylong symposium on the grounds of Angola Penitentiary on March 11. The symposium lineup will feature leading scholars and performances by inmate-musicians.
The symposium will take place in the former Receiving Center/Death Row building, the museum’s newly opened extension. Dr. Nick Spitzer, host of the American Routes radio show and professor at Tulane University, will moderate 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, the prison and the museum will host a concert with prisoner bands The Jazzmen, Angola’s Most Wanted, The Main Prison Gospel Band, Pure Heart Messengers, Little Country, and Final Mission on the Angola rodeo grounds.
The symposium also marks the opening of a new and expanded prison music exhibition at the penitentiary’s museum. The symposium and exhibition are supported by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
“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.”