I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture

Univ of California Press
Free sample

This book divides into two basic parts. In Chapters 1 and 2 I discuss historical examples of "rumor" discourse and suggest whey many blacks have--for good reason--channeled beliefs about race relations into familiar formulae, ones developed as early as the time of the first contact between sub-Saharan Africans and European white. Then in Chapters 3-7 it explores the continuation of these issues in late-twentieth-century African-American rumors and contemporary legends, using examples collected in the field. Because Turner was able to monitor these contemporary legends as they unfolded and played themselves out, rigorous analysis was possible. What follows, then, is an examination of the themes common to these contemporary items and related historical ones, and an explanation for their persistence. Concerns about conspiracy, contamination, cannibalism, and castration--perceived threats to individual black bodies, which are then translated into animosity toward the race as a whole--run through nearly four hundred years of black contemporary legend material and prove remarkable tenacious. 
Read more
Collapse

About the author

Patricia A. Turner is Professor of African-American and African Studies at the University of California at Davis and the author of Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture (1994).

Read more
Collapse
Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of California Press
Read more
Collapse
Published on
Sep 28, 1993
Read more
Collapse
Pages
260
Read more
Collapse
ISBN
9780520915572
Read more
Collapse
Read more
Collapse
Read more
Collapse
Language
English
Read more
Collapse
Genres
History / Social History
Social Science / Folklore & Mythology
Read more
Collapse
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Collapse
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more
Collapse
Eligible for Family Library

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
The Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas has long been an enclave of resistance to innovation and "newfangled" ideas. Many of the old-time superstitions and customs have been nurtured and kept alive through the area's relative isolation and the strong attachment of the hillfolk to these old attitudes. Though modern science and education have been making important inroads in the last few decades, the region is still a fertile source of quaint ideas, observances, and traditions.
People are normally reticent about their deepest beliefs, especially with outsiders. The author, however, has lived in the Ozarks since 1920 and has long since been a student of Ozark life—and a writer of a number of books and articles on various aspects of the subject. Through casual conversations rather than by direct questioning, he has been able gradually to compile a singularly authentic record of Ozark superstition. His book contains a vast amount of folkloristic material, including legends, beliefs, ritual verses and sayings and odd practices of the hillpeople, plus a wealth of general cultural data. Mr. Randolph discusses weather signs; beliefs about auspicious times for planting crops, butchering hogs, etc.; prenatal influence in "marking" babies; backwoods beauty treatments; lucky charms, omens and auguries; courtship jinxes, love potions, etc.; dummy suppers; and numerous other customs and convictions—many racy and amusing, others somewhat grisly or spooky.
Here you'll meet and learn about the yarb doctor who prepared curious remedies of herbs and odd concoctions; power doctors who use charms, spells, and exorcism to effect cures; granny-women (mountain midwives); "doodlebuggers" and witch wigglers who find water with the aid of divining rods; "conjurefolk" and Holy Rollers; witches and goomer doctors; clairvoyants and fortune-tellers; plus the ordinary finger-crossing, wish-making citizens of the area. The general reader as well as the specialist in particular fields of cultural anthropology, etc. will truly enjoy this lively survey of lore and practice—a little-known but fascinating slice of American life.
Its gentle humor takes the reader into the hills with the author. The book deserves a place in any general collection of Americana and in all collections of folklore," U.S. QUARTERLY BOOKLIST. "A veritable treasury of backwoods custom and belief… [ a ] wealth of circumstantial detail and cultural background," Carl Withers, N.Y. TIMES.
In the eyes of many white Americans, North and South, the Negro did not have a culture until the Emancipation Proclamation. With few exceptions, serious collecting of Negro folklore by whites did not begin until the Civil War—and it was to be another four decades before black Americans would begin to appreciate their own cultural heritage. Few of the earlier writers realized that they had observed and recorded not simply a manifestation of a particular way of life but also a product peculiarly American and specifically Negro, a synthesis of African and American styles and traditions.

The folksongs, speech, beliefs, customs, and tales of the American Negro are discussed in this anthology, originally published in 1967, of thirty-five articles, letters, and reviews from nineteenth-century periodicals. Published between 1838 and 1900 and written by authors who range from ardent abolitionist to dedicated slaveholder, these articles reflect the authors’ knowledge of, and attitudes toward, the Negro and his folklore. From the vast body of material that appeared on this subject during the nineteenth century, editor Bruce Jackson has culled fresh articles that are basic folklore and represent a wide range of material and attitudes. In addition to his introduction to the volume, Jackson has prefaced each article with a commentary. He has also supplied a supplemental bibliography on Negro folklore.

If serious collecting of Negro folklore had begun by the middle of the nineteenth century, so had exploitation of its various aspects, particularly Negro songs. By 1850 minstrelsy was a big business. Although Jackson has considered minstrelsy outside the scope of this collection, he has included several discussions of it to suggest some aspects of its peculiar relation to the traditional. The articles in the anthology—some by such well-known figures as Joel Chandler Harris, George Washington Cable, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Mason Brown, and Antonin Dvorak—make fascinating reading for an observer of the American scene. This additional insight into the habits of thought and behavior of a culture in transition—folklore recorded in its own context—cannot but afford the thinking reader further understanding of the turbulent race problems of later times and today.

Legends are arguably the most common narrative form of folklore in American society. From sex acts to business transactions, from fashion to food, from heroes to heroin, rumors and legends take on every charged topic. Children circulate texts about toys and candy; teenagers share stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll; young professionals commiserate over the hazards of the work world. These stories address aspects of life about which we receive mixed or ambiguous messages. Given that matters relevant to race remain confused and divisive in many corridors of American society, it is not surprising that rumors and legends that reflect racial misunderstanding and mistrust frequently circulate. Whispers on the Color Line focuses on a wide array of tales told in black and white communities across America. Topics run the gamut from alleged governmental conspiracies, possible food tampering, gang violence, and the sex lives of celebrities. Such beliefs travel by word of mouth, in print, and increasingly over the Internet. In many instances these stories reflect the tenacious level of racial misunderstanding that continues to vex efforts to foster racial harmony, creating separate racialized pools of knowledge.

The authors have spent over twenty years collecting and analyzing rumors and contemporary legends--from the ever-durable Kentucky Fried Rat cycle to persistent beliefs about athletic footwear manufacturers and their support for white supremacist regimes. These implausible stories serve many purposes: they assuage anxieties, entertain friends, increase our sense of control--all without directly proclaiming our own attitudes. Fine and Turner consider how these tales reflect attitudes that blacks and whites have both about each other and about the world they face. In an engaging and penetrating narrative, they brilliantly demonstrate how--by transforming unacceptable impulses into a narrative that is claimed to have actually happened--we are able to express the inexpressible.
©2019 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google|Location: United StatesLanguage: English (United States)
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.