Black folklore and the politics of racial representation by Shirley Moody-Turner

By Shirley Moody-Turner

"Before the leading edge paintings of Zora Neale Hurston, folklorists from the Hampton Institute accrued, studied, and wrote approximately African American folklore. Like Hurston, those folklorists labored inside of but additionally past the limits of white mainstream associations. they typically known as into query the which means of the very folklore initiatives during which they have been engaged. Shirley Moddy-Turner analyzes this output, in addition to the  Read more...

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Extra resources for Black folklore and the politics of racial representation

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9 Working within this context, Newell sought to move away from the previous popular, romantic interpretations of folklore and instead stressed an “objectivist-oriented” rather than “meaning-oriented” approach to folklore collection that was more interested in amassing and studying folkloric material and how these texts circulated, than in understanding what the materials might have meant to the people and groups who shared and passed on these traditions. Hence, in the interest of scientific objectivity, Newell urged his fellow folklorists to avoid theoretical discussions of the materials that recapitulated the romantic nationalism, and hence the biological and racial determinism, he identified with popular approaches to folklore.

Scholarly and public interest in folkloric materials hinged, in part, on what these materials revealed about the evolutionary stages of human development. 24 For many, folklore studies offered a way to mark, categorize, and order the allegedly uncivilized elements that persisted in a civilized society. Lee J. Vance, for instance, stated 26 Folklore and the Birth of Jim Crow that “folklore is only concerned with the legends, customs, beliefs of the Folk, of the classes of people which have least been altered by education, which have shared least in progress .

Rice’s depiction of blackness quickened a cultural fascination with the black image that culminated in the immense popularity of minstrelsy. This juggling of racial identity eventually elicited enough attention to become a site of appropriation for the forming system of Jim Crow segregation. Tracing the career of Jim Crow reveals how popular culture, folklore studies, constructions of the black folk, and social and political agendas all converged around turn-of-thecentury questions of racial identity and social order.

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