I can’t quite believe this film.
And yet everything about it rings true. It’s an excerpt from a news reel in which Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter and the folksong archivist, John Lomax supposedly re-enact their meeting and Ledbetter’s release from jail.
I don’t know why it surprises me, but the casual racism of Lomax and the awkward nature of what Ledbetter was expected to do, particularly the bit where he says Lomax will be the best boss he’s had, is really sad to see.
There doesn’t seem to be much else of Leadbelly. Before the newsreel emerged, this seemed to be the only footage of him singing:
There’s been some internet speculation that he was one of the group captured in this footage, but it seems highly unlikely. It’s still fantastic to watch and listen to though.