Archie Green, 91, Union Activist and Folklorist, Dies

Historians in the News

Archie Green, a shipwright turned folklorist whose interest in union workers and their culture transformed the study of American folklore and who single-handedly persuaded Congress to create the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, died last Sunday at his home in San Francisco. He was 91.

The cause was kidney failure, his son Derek said.

Mr. Green, a shipwright and carpenter by trade, drew on a childhood enthusiasm for cowboy songs and a devotion to the union movement to construct a singular academic career. Returning to college at 40, he began studying what he called laborlore: the work songs, slang, craft techniques and tales that helped to define the trade unions and create a sense of group identity.

“He countered the prevailing, somewhat romantic notion that folklore was isolated in remote, marginal groups,” said Simon Bronner, who teaches folklore at Pennsylvania State University. “He showed that each of us, in our own work lives, have a folklore that we not only perform but that we need.”

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