Tonight there’s something a little different – it’s a memoir, or part of one. Lillian Smith, the author of such classics of civil rights literature as Strange Fruit and Killers of the Dream, wrote this memoir of her childhood Christmases that goes a long way to explain how this Southern white woman became a crusader for the civil rights of all people.A good song to go with it is Almost Day, the Seeger family’s version of Leadbelly’s song On a Christmas Day.
The song is associated with Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) and some say he wrote it. Ledbetter may or may not have worked on a chain gang like the Christmas guests in our story, but he definitely served time in Southern prisons. Afterwards, he made part of his living entertaining at children’s parties until he was discovered by folklorists John and Alan Lomax.
If you’d like something a little more antique, try this story that I recorded in 2006, the chapter “The Festival of St. Nicholas” from Mary Mapes Dodge’s Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates. At the time, the only Dutch carol I could find was King Jesus Hath a Garden, sung by the Clare College Choir. Here’s another version by the Wells Cathedral Choir, in an arrangement by John Rutter.
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