1957: A Year In The Collections

In 1957, the post-World War II baby boom peaked. President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Arkansas to uphold the court-ordered integration of public schools, and the Little Rock Nine bravely integrated Little Rock’s Central High School on September 25, 1957. In October, the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik I. It was followed in November by the spacecraft Sputnik 2, which carried Laika, the first animal to orbit the Earth. In December, the first U.S. satellite launch effort failed spectacularly when its Vanguard rocket exploded during liftoff. In reaction, American interest in space-related toys and science education soared.

It was a banner year for music. Elvis bought Graceland in Memphis, and he made his third and final appearance on "Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town Show," where he was seen only from the waist up. Folk singer Pete Seeger was indicted for contempt of Congress in March for refusing to name personal and political associations before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Lennon and McCartney met for the first time, and great jazz, such as Miles Davis' model jazz, contintued to develop.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, one of the first record labels to document “world music,” released an astounding number of recordings in 1957, including children’s songs, poetry, ambient sound, stories, experimental music, and landmark recordings like anthropologist Colin Turnbull’s Music of the Ituri Forest. These influential sounds helped fuel the American folk music revival (including Woody Guthrie, Seeger, and Lead Belly) and the protest music explosion of the '60s.

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