This anthology of African-American folk tales, edited by Harvard professors Gates (In Search of our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Pasts, 2017, etc.) and Tatar (Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World, 2017, etc.), gathers more than 100 folk tales from the African diaspora into an exhaustive collection for both academic and casual audiences.
Gates and Tatar combine critical essays on the origins of black folklore collections, primary sources, and essay-length statements from past archivists—including Joel Chandler Harris, Zora Neale Hurston, and Sterling A. Brown—in order to give readers a comprehensive sense of black folklore's unique role in American literary and political culture. Casual readers can simply enjoy the anthology's extensive sampling of familiar tales. An entire chapter is dedicated to variations on "The Tar-Baby Story," and Brer Rabbit appears in dozens of stories. Harris' Uncle Remus tales get considerable attention, as do the tales in Hurston's towering folklore collection, Mules and Men. The edition's useful annotations clarify these tales' language, making them more accessible to a wider audience. The editors also make room for analogous stories from Latin American traditions and black adaptations of European fairy tales, demonstrating how myths and folk tales are often universal in nature. As convenient as it will be for casual readers to have these tales collected into one volume, this anthology will be of greatest interest to an academic audience. Gates' and Tatar's introductions provide essential critical frameworks for understanding black folk culture's centrality to wider American culture, while the secondary sources shed light on the various methodologies and philosophies that have informed how scholars gather folklore.
An exhaustive, informative, and entertaining survey of African-American folklore, its centrality to American culture, and the universality of myth.