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ABOUT THIS SITE
“Faces” in the Piney Woods: Traditions of Turpentining in South Georgia (© 2004 Valdosta State University) is an oral history project of the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University. It is developed from the perspective of the field of folklore and focuses on the occupational folklife of South Georgia turpentine workers. For much of the past century, Georgia was the nation’s leading producer of gum naval stores, or the industry of extracting products such as turpentine and rosin from living pine trees. The last bucket of gum for commercial turpentine was dipped by Major Phillips in the summer of 2001 in Treutlen County, Georgia. The end of domestic turpentining in the U.S. inspired the project team to interview former turpentine workers about their lives and traditions. The work of gathering and processing the raw gum was done chiefly by African American men, although countless European American small gum farmers turpentined on their own land or on land leased from others. These workers developed specialized knowledge, terminology, customs, and lore which folklorists call “occupational folklife.” This site contains information gathered from 1998-2004 through background research, photographs, video, and oral interviews. It includes information on work in the woods and life in the turpentine camps told as told by those who lived it.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts Folk and Traditional Arts Infrastructure Initiative and from the Georgia Council for the Arts through the Appropriations from the Georgia General Assembly. The Council is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding has been provided by Valdosta State University.
Faces of the Piney Woods was developed by the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University. Team members include Dr. Laurie Sommers, project director; fieldworkers Tim Prizer and LeRoy Henderson; videographer Bill Muntz; and web designer Paul Flowers. Project director Sommers is responsible for the content of this site. Director of the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University, she holds a PhD in Folklore from Indiana University and has over 20 years experience in field research and public programming in folklore and ethnomusicology, focusing on regional cultures in the United States. She began work on the occupational folklife of turpentiners in 1998, forming the basis for the current project.
Project Contact Information:
Dr. Laurie Sommers
South Georgia Folklife Project
Valdosta State University
1500 N. Patterson Street
Valdosta, Georgia 31698
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