Civil War folklorist to perform Oct. 23

Civil War contributions of African-Americans will be the subject of a one-man show at Mississippi State University by a leading folklorist of black culture.

"The Blue and Gray in Black and White" is the title of James "Sparky" Rucker's Oct. 23 depiction of the war's impact on different regions of the country. His costumed presentation includes songs, anecdotes and personal narratives.

The free performance begins at 8 p.m. in the Colvard Union ballroom. The Campus Activities Board and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center are co-sponsors.

For nearly three decades, the 50-year-old Rucker has toured internationally, including performances at major American folk festivals and Civil War battlefields. A recording artist for Flying Fish Records with nine releases to his credit, he has earned accolades as a singer, folklorist and storyteller, as well as a Civil War historian and genealogical researcher.

"Blue and Gray in Black and White" is a mixture of sadness and humor. Interspersed among mid-19th century American songs is Rucker's chronological account of major Civil War events. Often, these include events of the time from the community in which he is performing.

Raised in Knoxville, Tenn., he is a former Chattanooga school teacher who bases his performances primarily on folk history.

"Folk history is the best way for people to learn their heritage," Rucker said recently. "That's because it is written by the people that lived the experiences, and people have always been more 'real' than the way they are portrayed in history books."

For additional information on the program, telephone Beth Waltrip at (601) 325-2930.