Looking for an inexpensive get-away this summer? Well, you’re in luck. Now through July 5th on the National Mall in Washington DC is the annual cornucopia of world culture–the Smithsonian Folklife Festival! The best part about it? IT’S FREE!
This year one of the festival’s three themes is Wales which, of course, reminded me of the engaging new book by Ronald L. Lewis, WELSH AMERICANS: A HISTORY OF ASSIMILATION IN THE COALFIELDS. This book describes the more than 100,000 Welsh-born immigrants that resided in the United States in 1890. A majority of them were skilled laborers from the coal mines of Wales who had been recruited by American mining companies. In the first history of this exceptional community, Lewis explores how Welsh immigrants made a significant contribution to the development of the American coal industry and how rapid and successful assimilation affected Welsh American culture.
Wales (Cymru in Welsh) is the nation where mile-long words abound, with g’s and w’s and y’s in unexpected places. Famous Welsh Americans include John L. Lewis, legedary leader of the United Mine Workers of America, Hollywood actors Catherine Zeta Jones and Christian Bale, and–at least by name–UNC Press editor Sian (“Shawn”) Hunter. The festival highlights contemporary Welsh handcrafts–like building a dry stone wall, making baskets, carving wooden clogs, industries–like mining, bookbinding, printing, as well as an abundance of good food, beer, wonderful Celtic music, and much more!
If you haven’t been, find an excuse to get to Washington DC and check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival–it’s free, fun and fascinating for people of all ages. And, if you haven’t already, read up on what the Welsh brought to America here.
-Kate Torrey, UNC Press director