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Collection Number: 20240

Collection Title: Maggie Holtzberg and Barry Dornfeld Collection on Gandy Dancers Documentary Film, 1994 and undated

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Size 53 items
Abstract The collection contains film elements compiled during the making of Gandy Dancers, a 1994 documentary directed and produced by Maggie Holtzberg and Barry Dornfeld. "Gandy dancer" is a slang term for a railroad section worker who lays and repairs track. Holtzeberg and Dornfeld's film features eight retired African American rail workers or gandy dancers. The retirees share stories of working in the mid-twentieth-century, segregated South, discuss organized labor and the safety standards and hazards of rail work, and demonstrate their occupation's musical and folklore traditions, especially rail calls (cadence chants) and work songs. These rail calls and work songs often had sexually explicit lyrics, while others had religious faith and social protest as themes. Acquired as part of the Southern Folklife Collection.
Creator Holtzberg, Maggie, 1955-
Curatorial Unit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Folklife Collection.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
This collection is not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact Research and Instructional Service staff at to discuss options for consulting this collection.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Maggie Holtzberg and Barry Dornfeld Collection on Gandy Dancers Documentary Film #20240, Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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Maggie Holtzberg (1955-) and Barry Dornfeld (1958-) were co-directors and producers of the 1994 documentary film Gandy Dancers. The film featured retired African American railroad workers sharing their stories, musical traditions and railroad calls.

Maggie Holtzberg is a folklorist with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Lost World of the Craft Printer and Portrait of Spirit: One Story at a Time. She has served as the folklife program director at the Georgia Council for the Arts and the manager of the folk arts program at the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Barry Dornfeld is a documentary filmmaker whose other films include Eatala: A Life in Klezmer, LaVaughn Robinson: Dancing History, Look Forward and Carry on the Past: Stories from Philadelphia’s Chinatown, and Plenty of Good Women Dancers: African-American Women Hoofers in Philadelphia. He holds a PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Dornfeld has taught at New York University and worked at a management consulting firm.

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Processing Information

This summary description was created in January 2019 to provide information about unprocessed materials in Wilson Special Collections Library.

Encoded by: Laura Smith

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