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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Woody Guthrie’s writings, recordings and artwork will land in his native state after an Oklahoma foundation bought the collection, with plans for a display that concentrates on his artistry rather than the populist politics that divided local opinion over the years.
Guthrie, known for the anthem, “This Land is Your Land” and his songs about the poor and downtrodden, is remembered mostly as a musician, composer and singer, but was also a literary figure and an artist, said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
“Woody Guthrie was a crossroads of creativity,” Blackburn said. “Woody Guthrie reveals so much about our history.”
The George Kaiser Family Foundation, a charitable organization based in Tulsa, announced Wednesday that it purchased the archives and plans to open the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa by the end of 2012 to mark the centennial of the singer’s birth.
The foundation did not disclose how much it paid for the collection, which includes the original handwritten copy of “This Land is Your Land.” Also included are original musical recordings, handwritten songbooks and almost 3,000 song lyrics, rare books by and about Guthrie, more than 700 pieces of artwork, letters and postcards, more than 500 photographs, Guthrie’s annotated record collection and personal papers detailing family matters, his World War II military service and musical career.
The archive had been housed in the Mount Kisco, N.Y., home of Nora Guthrie, the songwriter’s daughter. Woody Guthrie, a native of Okemah, died of Huntington’s disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative condition, in 1967 at the age of 55.
While Guthrie’s social activism rubbed some conservative Oklahomans the wrong way, Blackburn said his songs reflect the down-to-earth sentiment of the state where he was born.
“Woody Guthrie never changed his opinion,” Blackburn said. “Woody Guthrie was a populist who was fearful of big business, fearful of big government. That populist message came out of Oklahoma’s red soil.”
Oklahoma musician and music historian Steve Ripley, who has performed with Bob Dylan and also worked with Oklahoma native Leon Russell, said Guthrie’s work influenced them and other musicians including Bruce Springsteen.
“Most people recognize him as America’s songwriter,” Ripley said. “He’s so important in his own right. He’s writing about everything, and that was his genius.”
Guthrie did not have much of an audience for his music early in his career, Blackburn said, but his popularity soared during the economic and cultural tumult caused by the Great Depression.
“Only then did he really find an audience,” Blackburn said. “As the country’s attitude started changing, it came in line with Woody’s populist origins.”
Guthrie’s popularity in his home state suffered as it became more politically conservative, and he was even portrayed as anti-American.
Ripley noted that during World War II, Guthrie penned songs that railed against fascism, including “All You Fascists Bound To Lose,” and sang for troops to buoy their spirits while serving with the Army and U.S. Merchant Marine.
“He wrote so many great songs that are pointedly pro-American,” Ripley said. “They weren’t running around knocking America. That stuff was not let’s tear down America. It was let’s build up America.”
Attitudes about Guthrie have shifted over the past decade as Oklahomans renewed their interest in his life and music, Blackburn said. Today, a portrait of Guthrie hangs in the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is held annually in Okemah to coincide with his birthday on July 12.
The new four-building arts hub in Tulsa will feature public displays from the Guthrie archives and research space for scholars and artists “so the story of this extraordinary Oklahoman can be told for generations to come,” the George Kaiser Family Foundation’s executive director Ken Levit said in a statement.
Blackburn said the archive will ensure that Guthrie’s art remains timeless like that of another Oklahoma native, Will Rogers.
It “will be more than a collection of one man’s art,” he said. “It will be a tool for education, inspiration for artists and a window through which every man and woman anywhere in the world can search for a better understanding of the human experience.”
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)