The banjo links disparate musical and cultural traditions — from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States — and its history is deeply interwoven with the history of those places. Recently, National Humanities Center Fellow Laurent Dubois and musician Joe Newberry participated in a "musical conversation" exploring this fascinating history and performed songs for NHC trustees, Fellows and special guests.
Laurent Dubois is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History and faculty director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University. He is a specialist on the history and culture of the Atlantic world, with a focus on the Caribbean and particularly Haiti and has written, edited, or translated seventeen volumes on these topics. He wrote his most recent book, "The Banjo: America’s African Instrument," while he was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2008–09.
Joe Newberry is known throughout the folk and bluegrass world as a gifted musician and award-winning songwriter who has delighted audiences for over 30 years with his innovative banjo playing, as well as his skills with the guitar and fiddle. He’s been a frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s "A Prairie Home Companion" and regularly appears at camps and festivals around the country where he teaches traditional music and song.