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David Wooldridge

Folkways Reporter

David Wooldridge lives in Lowesville, VA. He began working at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in 1995 where he now serves as the park’s Museum Technician. At the National Park he works a stone’s throw away from the Mariah Wright house, his ancestral home of his third great-grandmother, restored and preserved by the NPS. Wooldridge, a former middle and high school social studies teacher and administrator, received his bachelor’s degree in history and educa­tion from Radford University and his master’s degree from the Curry School at the University of Virginia. He has played and studied the early banjo for over 25 years. He is passionate about telling untold stories.

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  • The banjo, an instrument closely associated with mountain music, originated in Africa and came to America with enslaved Africans. In the 1830s and 1840s, it was taken up by white musicians and became a staple of minstrelsy, a form of racist entertainment in which white performers—often in blackface—depicted stereotypes of Black Americans. Eventually the banjo crossed fully over into white public culture and was separated from its African roots and identity. Now, there’s an emerging movement of Black musicians who are reclaiming the banjo and taking the instrument—and its sound—in new directions.