African American banjoists honored at festival

Visitors to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park on Saturday were welcomed by the sounds of live music and a welcoming word from tour guides highlighting the banjo and its history.

This year’s Joel Sweeney and the Banjo Festival featured a dedication ceremony to highlight the newly installed Virginia State Historical Marker honoring the African American banjoists who passed on their music knowledge to Joel Sweeney.

While Sweeney popularized the banjo, it was the African American banjoists who taught him how to play.

“We honored enslaved African American banjoists who taught Joel Sweeney how to play the banjo with the dedication of this historic highway marker,” said park superintendent Robin Snyder in retrospect. “It was our way of paying tribute to these musicians who did not have a voice so many years ago.” 

For the full article see this week's edition of the Times Virginian, on sale now.