The above video is provided by Susan Roach, Louisiana Tech University and edited by Peter Jones.
Editor’s Note: The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities honored Susan Roach, Ph.D., with its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bright Lights Awards Ceremony on April 23, 2015. Roach served as a folklorist with the Louisiana Regional Folklife Program from 1998–2009. She is now director of the School of Language and Literature and professor of English at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Among her collaborative projects is Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife, an online book featuring essays about various folk, work, worship, musical, homemaking and ethnic traditions in the 12 parishes that comprise the Delta region of the state.
One of the most spectacular of religious practices documented in the Delta Folklife Project is Easter Rock, an Easter eve vigil ceremony celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is believed to have originated in antebellum days at African American plantation churches in Northeast Louisiana. Today only one surviving group, The Winnsboro Easter Rock, maintains the tradition. In this video, the Rock has just begun with a procession around a table set with lamps and cakes, representing the sepulcher of Christ, as participants are finishing the last verse of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” They then transition into the spiritual “Oh, David” as the rockers perform in a side shuffle step that reverberates like a drum accompanying their singing. Reverend Lionel Wilson carries a banner, symbolizing Christ’s cross, and Easter Rock leader Hattie Addision Burkhalter helps pull the banner from side to side as the rockers circle counter-clockwise around the table.
Located in 1994 by Annie Staten, the Winnsboro group continues Easter Rock annually and they have demonstrated the ceremony at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This video excerpt was filmed by Roach at the Jack Hammons Community Center in Winnsboro on March 30, 2013. It was edited by Peter Jones.
To learn more about Easter Rock and other folk traditions in Northeast Louisiana, visit the website for Delta Pieces.