"Once again, therefore, the old dispute; is there a South? Where is it headed? Can it survive? Should it? The same self-conscious regionalism that had carried import since the days of Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, and Calhoun still has meaning enough remaining to it to cause argument and concern. Apparently it sill means something significant to say of a human being that he is a southerner."
--Louis D. Rubin, Jr., 1980
Excerpted from “The Banjo Entertainers, Roots to Ragtime, A Banjo History,” by Lowell H. Schreyer, Minnesota Heritage Publishing, 2007, pages 5-36.
The James River valley of Virginia was a locale of banjo activity in the early 1800s.
That river led to the city of Lynchburg. Only 25 miles away was the Clover Hill community in Buckingham County, part of which would become Appomattox County. Nearby was the Flood family plantation. A white neighbor boy would come over to play with young blacks on that plantation.
Eventually he learned something about the peculiar instrument they played.
The instrument was the gourd banjo. The boy was Joel Walker Sweeney.
“I have often heard it said that… he was taught to play by a negro…,” wrote a Sweeney family acquaintance commenting on Joel Sweeney.
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