Professor Levine (History, U Cal, Berkeley) effectively pulls together a wide range of mostly familiar sources in the service of a theme that hasn't received much impartial explicit attention: black US folk consciousness as black oral literature reflects it. Though he is prone to overkill in supplying examples to illustrate a single point, and some of his material--especially musical--has been frequently worked, he is refreshingly free in his use of contemporary sources, including, for example, the great comedian Moms Mabley. His conclusions--that black Americans have a culture with an enduring African element, and that it evolved partly but not wholly in response to slavery and racism--are hardly startling, but he is particularly good on the evolution of black thinking over almost 200 years. In addition, Levine's chapter, ""Black Laughter"" (with its passages on black ""Irish"" and ""Jewish"" jokes), and the section on ""the modernization of the black hero"" are excellent. All in all, a modest but worthwhile look at Afro-American popular culture.