Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation
Before the innovative work of Zora Neale Hurston, folklorists
from the Hampton Institute collected, studied, and wrote about
African American folklore. Like Hurston, these folklorists worked
within but also beyond the bounds of white mainstream institutions.
They often called into question the meaning of the very folklore
projects in which they were engaged.
Shirley Moody-Turner analyzes this output, along with the
contributions of a disparate group of African American authors and
scholars. She explores how black authors and folklorists were
active participants--rather than passive observers--in
conversations about the politics of representing black folklore.
Examining literary texts, folklore documents, cultural
performances, legal discourse, and political rhetoric, Black
Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation
demonstrates how folklore studies became a battleground across
which issues of racial identity and difference were asserted and
debated at the turn of the twentieth century. The study is framed
by two questions of historical and continuing import. What role
have representations of black folklore played in constructing
racial identity? And, how have those ideas impacted the way African
Americans think about and creatively engage black traditions?
Moody-Turner renders established historical facts in a new light
and context, taking figures we thought we knew--such as Charles
Chesnutt, Anna Julia Cooper, and Paul Laurence Dunbar--and
recasting their place in African American intellectual and cultural
Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature
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