Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tartar have edited a new anthology called The Annotated African American Folktales in which they have stressed how important it is for readers to figure out and respond to the mysteries presented in the anthology. They refer to these mysteries as intricately “wrapped in enigmas inside riddles.”
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Gates and Tartar provide an introduction which showcases the essential critical frameworks for understanding the centrality of African American culture within wider American culture, and the universality of myth wrapped around it. The Anthology reclaims stories passed down from times of slavery and presen a journey across space and time with survival and spirituality being the main underlying themes.
In a specific chapter, mentioned by Robert Siegel, of NPR called “Defiance and Desire,” folktales are told by newly arrived Africans who are fated to be sold into the slave trade. What sets them apart from the slaves that came before them is that they still have the ability to fly and these fantastical stories portray them flying back to Africa and escaping their impending fates. You can continue reading these stories here
Booklist has called the anthology “Panoramic. . . Extensively sourced, this groundbreaking gathering redefines African American folklore, establishes a canon, and traces the influence of these stories on American history, society, and culture.”
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