Nebraska Authors

Benjamin Albert Botkin

Born 1901 Boston, MA (USA)

Died 1975

Botkin was already a well known folklorist when he came to Nebraska in the late 1920s to study with Louise Pound. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in 1931. His fame as a folklorist rests on his role as the compiler of the interregional Folk-Say anthologies (1929-32), as national folklore editor of the New Deal's Federal Writers' Project (1938-39), as chief editor of the Writers' Unit of the Library of Congress Project, (1939-1941), as head of the Archive of American Folksong (1942-45) following John and Alan Lomax, and as the author of numerous folklore treasuries, beginning with A Treasury of American Folklore (1944). Botkin's Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery (1945) introduced the Federal Writers' Project ex-slave narratives. His ideas and methodology have been the subject of controversy among folklorists and are still both appreciated and debated.

Botkin's stay at the University of Nebraska was important to him. The Botkin Papers are in the UNL Archives.

Places Lived

Lincoln, NE

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction


Folklore; Federal Writers Project


University of Nebraska



Places Worked

University of Oklahoma
Federal Writers' Project
Library of Congress


Studied under Louise Pound at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Collaborated with Lowry Wimberly
Writer Jim Thompson was a friend.


A Treasury of American Folklore. 1944.
Mid-Country : Writings from the Heart of America. 1945. (editor - Lowry Wimberly, introduction by B. A. Botkin)
A Treasury of Railroad Folklore : The Stories, Tall Tales, Traditions, Ballads and Songs of the American Railroad Man. 1953. (ed. with Alvin Harlow)
Sidewalks of America. 1954.
A Treasury of American Anecdotes. 1957.

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Benjamin Albert Botkin

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)