Cover image for From my people : 400 years of African American folklore
From my people : 400 years of African American folklore
Dance, Daryl Cumber.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, [2002]

Physical Description:
xliii, 736 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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GR111.A47 F76 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
GR111.A47 F76 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GR111.A47 F76 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
GR111.A47 F76 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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A magnificent celebration of --and an essential introduction to--African American life and culture. Within the chapter on folk art, which includes a sixteen-page color insert, guilts, dolls, sculpture, and painting get their due. From the famous to the anonymous, From My people is Dance's gift back to her culture.

Author Notes

Daryl Cumber Dance is the author of Honey, Hush! An Anthology of African American Women's Humor, Shuckin' and Jivin', Folklore from Contemporary Jamaicans, Long Gone, Fifty Caribbean Writers, New World Adams, and The Lineage of Abraham. She is a professor at the University of Richmond

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Calling folklore the soul of a people, Dance offers an incredible collection that reflects the experience of African American culture through the generations, from slavery through contemporary times, using a variety of sources. Folktales, work songs, proverbs, sermons, and speeches--including Frederick Douglass' 1852 Fourth of July speech on slavery and freedom--are presented along with a color insert on folk arts and crafts. Dance begins each section by providing context: the transportation and evolution of Brer Rabbit and Anancy the spider from Africa to the Americas, and the significance of music from spirituals to blues to work songs to rap music as a means of inspiring, encouraging, carrying secret messages, and offering social commentary. The collection includes contributions from Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Nikki Giovanni, W. C. Handy and Bessie Smith, as well as a host of proverbs, superstitions, and riddles collected over the years from anonymous and obscure contributors. This is a rich collection. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

In From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore, Daryl Cumber Dance (Honey, Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor) celebrates rumors, riddles, recipes, song lyrics, sermons, art objects and stories. The anthology offers a compendious assortment folklore and commentary on African-American culture by the eminent likes of Frederick Douglass, Jelly Roll Morton and Jacqui Malone. Zora Neale Hurston's fashion sense is assessed by her contemporaries; nursery rhymes and clapping games are recounted by experts; quilts and tramp art are pictured; and superstitions are repeated. Dance, a professor at the University of Richmond, has assembled an impressive, diverse array of African Americana, including 30 b&w photos and 16 pages of color photos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Comprehensive if not exhaustive, this anthology provides a synthetic overview of African American folk expression, offering an entree into a vast subject. Informative texts introduce each of the 13 major genres covered in this book, which include tales, songs, beliefs, folk arts, proverbs, costume, and sermons. Drawing on both oral and printed sources in addition to original works, Dance (ed., Honey Hush!: An Anthology of African American Women's Humor) reprints familiar materials from such notables as Paul Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Jelly Roll Morton, Ben Botkin, and Langston Hughes and also from songs, proverbs, and recipes. The selections vividly affirm the strength of African American lore as part of American language and culture. Dance has conducted an ambitious search for the identity and essence of African American expression, and she succeeds admirably, capturing what was largely invisible to many generations. Rendered in dialect where possible, these selections reflect an inventive people who speak and sing without embellishment. Recommended for all collections. Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

W. C. HandyW. C. HandyW. C. HandyPerry BradfordW. C. HandyChris Smith and W. C. HandyRichard M. JonesW. C. HandyBessie SmithBessie Smith and Clarence WilliamsJimmie CoxIda CoxMa RaineyCharles Cow Cow DavenportPorter Granger and Everett RobbinsSam Theard and Fleecie MooreSybil KeinSybil KeinSybil KeinSybil KeinDe La SoulHarriet Beecher StoweSolomon NorthupWilliam Wells BrownPaul Laurence DunbarHerman MelvilleFrederick Law OlmstedLangston HughesWillie MorrisAlan LomaxRalph EllisonJane De Forest SheltonAlice Morse EarleThomas Wentworth HigginsonEdward WarrenPaul Laurence DunbarAlan LomaxRalph EllisonJacqui MaloneAlfonzo MathisAlfonzo MathisMissionary Mary ProctorHenry GudgellJames HamptonJ. B. AndersonSteven AshbyRuth Polk PattersonBenjamin Henry Boneval LatrobeAbraham Lincoln CrissAbraham Lincoln CrissEdward Lee AtkinsSojourner TruthFrederick DouglassFrederick DouglassJohn JasperAlex CrummellPaul Laurence DunbarWilliam Wells BrownJean ToomerZora Neale HurstonRuth Rogers JohnsonThe Reverend C. L. FranklinThe Reverend C. L. FranklinMartin Luther King Jr.Martin Luther King Jr.Martin Luther King Jr.Malcolm XMalcolm XJesse JacksonMaggie RussellJohn JasperLangston HughesSarah and A. Elizabeth DelanyCarrie Allen McCrayT. O. Madden Jr.Madison HemingsRuth Polk PattersonNat TurnerDaryl Cumber DanceDaryl Cumber DanceMelissa Fay GreeneDaryl Cumber DanceMaggie Pogue JohnsonDaryl Cumber Dance et al.Veronica Bell CumberVeronica Bell CumberDaryl Cumber Dance et al.Daryl Cumber Dance et al.Oswald DiamondQuincy MooreNikki GiovanniWendolyn Wallace JohnsonQuincy MooreDaryl Cumber DanceFrances Smith FosterJoanne V. GabbinJoanne V. GabbinEthel Morgan SmithWendolyn Wallace JohnsonWendolyn Wallace JohnsonDaryl Cumber DanceDorothy MontagueMartha GilbertDaryl Cumber DanceDaryl Cumber DanceDaryl Cumber DanceDaryl Cumber DanceDaryl Cumber DanceRozeal DiamondDaryl Cumber Dance et al.Esther VassarSandra Y. GovanVeronica Bell CumberVeronica Bell CumberDaryl Cumber Dance et al.Dorothy MontagueEsther VassarEsther VassarDorothy MontagueQuincy MooreCarol F. BooneVeronica Bell CumberSw. Anand PrahladSw. Anand PrahladWilliam Wells BrownFrederick DouglassWilliam Wells BrownRuth Polk PattersonSheila Louise HolmesRoland L. FreemanRoland L. FreemanWilliam Wells BrownWilliam Wells BrownArt RosenbaumNikki GiovanniJames Percelay et al.Zora Neale HurstonFrederick DouglassWilliam Wells BrownRuth BassPaule MarshallAlan LomaxOlaudah EquianoTheodore H. ParkerMary CableGladys-Marie FryPatricia TurnerRichard O. Jones
Acknowledgmentsp. xxix
Introductionp. xxxiii
Chapter 1 Folktalesp. 1
De Ways of de Wimmensp. 5
Why the Black Man's Hair Is Nappyp. 10
Why the Whites Have Everythingp. 10
Upon This Rockp. 10
Why the Rabbit Has a Short Tailp. 11
How the Black Man Lost His Wingsp. 12
The False Message: Take My Placep. 13
The Goldstonep. 14
Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Frog Make Mr. Fox and Mr. Bear Their Riding Horsesp. 19
Bobtail Beat the Devilp. 21
Making Butterp. 21
Some Are Going, and Some Are Comingp. 22
The Tar Babyp. 23
Buh Squirrel an' Buh Foxp. 24
How Brer Wolf Caught Brer Rabbitp. 25
Straighten Up and Fly Rightp. 26
De Two Fren an' de Bearp. 27
De Eagle an' His Chillunp. 28
Buh Lion an' Buh Goatp. 29
De Dyin' Bull-Frogp. 29
The Elephant and the Whalep. 30
Polly Tells on the Slavesp. 33
Hot Biscuits Burn Yo' Assp. 33
Lookin' for Three Foolsp. 34
Uncle Mondayp. 39
Sweet-the-Monkeyp. 42
The Coon in the Boxp. 44
The Mojop. 47
How?p. 48
Uncle Jim Speaks His Mindp. 49
Pompeyp. 50
Thirteen Yearsp. 50
Why the Guardian Angel Let the Brazos Bottom Negroes Sleepp. 53
You May Fall In Yourselfp. 54
I'll Go as Far as Memphisp. 55
Shall We Gather at the Riverp. 55
Gone to Meddlin'p. 56
Can't Get Inp. 56
The One-Legged Grave Robberp. 57
Big Fraid and Lil' Fraidp. 58
The Irishman and the Moonp. 59
The Irishman and the Watermelonp. 60
John and the Twelve Jewsp. 60
The Irishman at the Dancep. 62
How Hoodoo Lost His Handp. 63
Mary Bellp. 64
The Clever Companionsp. 66
The Laziest Manp. 67
The Lazy Manp. 68
Chapter 2 Folk Musicp. 70
Spirituals and Other Freedom Songs
Every Time I Feel the Spiritp. 77
Many Thousand Gonep. 78
I'm Gon' Live So God Can Use Mep. 78
Swing Low, Sweet Chariotp. 78
Go Down, Mosesp. 79
Oh, Mary, Don't You Weepp. 80
Steal Awayp. 80
Oh, Freedomp. 81
Nobody Knows de Trouble I Seep. 82
No Man Can Hinder Mep. 82
I Been 'Buked and I Been Scornedp. 83
Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Childp. 84
Rock-a My Soulp. 84
Uncloudy Dayp. 84
John Brown's Bodyp. 85
My Army Cross Overp. 86
One More Valiant Soldierp. 86
Ride In, Kind Saviourp. 87
We'll Soon Be Freep. 87
When Dat Ar Ole Chariot Comesp. 88
Lay This Body Downp. 89
Ain't Gon' Study War No Morep. 89
I Heard from Heaven Todayp. 90
Soon I Will Be Done wid de Troubles o' the Worldp. 91
I Want to Go Homep. 91
Wade in de Waterp. 92
Ole Time Religionp. 93
Somebody's Knocking at Your Doorp. 94
No Hiding Placep. 94
Heaven, Heavenp. 95
O Canaanp. 96
Michael, Row de Boat A-Shorep. 96
Were You There?p. 97
Done wid Driber's Dribin'p. 97
Dry Bonesp. 98
Song of the Coffle Gangp. 99
A Song for Freedomp. 100
Get on the Busp. 102
I'll Overcome Some Day/We Shall Overcomep. 102
We's Freep. 104
Po' Boy 'Long Way from Homep. 105
Look'd Down de Roadp. 107
Frisco Rag-Timep. 108
The Hesitating Bluesp. 109
Joe Turner's Bluesp. 110
The St. Louis Bluesp. 111
The Lonesome Bluesp. 112
Beale Streetp. 113
Long Gonep. 115
Trouble in Mindp. 115
Careless Lovep. 116
Backwater Bluesp. 117
Jail-House Bluesp. 118
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Outp. 118
Wild Women Don't Have the Bluesp. 119
Last Minute Bluesp. 120
I Ain't No Ice Manp. 120
Miscellaneous Blues Linesp. 121
'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Dop. 123
The New York Glidep. 124
Let the Good Times Rollp. 125
Ballads and Other Folk Songs
Jimmy Crack Cornp. 127
Charleston Galsp. 128
Marry Mep. 129
Frankie and Johnniep. 130
The Lynchersp. 131
Zydeco and Ballads from Louisiana Creoles of Color
Zydeco Calindap. 134
Sale Damep. 135
Eh, La Basp. 136
Maw-maw's Creole Lullabyp. 138
Ghetto Thangp. 141
Chapter 3 The Style of Soulp. 144
Looking Down on Herp. 155
The Poetry of Motionp. 156
Corn-Shucking and Christmas Festivitiesp. 156
The Partyp. 160
No Other Preacher Could Walk like Himp. 164
The Handsome Soldierp. 165
Colored People of Richmond in 1852p. 166
Fashion Platesp. 167
Zora Neale Hurstonp. 168
Rent Partiesp. 170
Going Negrop. 173
Shooting the Agatep. 175
Rinehart, Poppap. 177
Honky Tonk Budp. 177
The Election Day Festivalp. 178
Pinkster Dayp. 179
The Route Stepp. 180
John Kooneringp. 183
The Colored Bandp. 185
The Zulusp. 186
Photograph of King Zulup. 188
The Black Indiansp. 189
Didn't He Ramblep. 193
A Different Stylep. 194
Learning to Swingp. 195
Stepping: Regeneration through Dance in African American Fraternities and Sororitiesp. 195
Step Show at Virginia State Universityp. 204
The Virginia State University Marching Bandp. 205
The Twistp. 207
Dreadlocksp. 208
Chapter 4 Folk Arts and Craftsp. 209
Carvings and Sculptures
Seated Figure Holding a Bowlp. 216
My Aunt Betsey Told Mep. 217
Country Preacherp. 218
Walking Stickp. 219
The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assemblyp. 219
Male Angelp. 220
Large Lady in Beige Outfitp. 221
Afro-Carolinian Face Vesselp. 222
Dave's Potteryp. 223
Dolls and Other Toys
Toys Fashioned in the Polk Familyp. 224
Black Raggedy Annp. 226
Musical Instruments
Banjop. 227
New Orleans Musical Instrumentsp. 228
Everyday Objects
Animalsp. 230
Lampp. 231
Rocking Chairp. 232
Quilting Partiesp. 233
Key Basketp. 235
"Tramp Art" Bureaup. 235
Basketmaker and His Toolsp. 237
Craftsp. 238
Making Mullet Netp. 239
Purse Seinep. 240
Hand Signs from the 79 Family Swan Bloods, 1996p. 241
Pirus Rule the Streets of Bompton [Compton] Fool'sp. 242
No More Prisonsp. 243
Graffiti on Second Streetp. 244
A Bum Was Herep. 245
Graffiti at Maggie L. Walker High Schoolp. 246
Moving Graffitip. 247
A Few Items from the Encyclopedia of Graffitip. 248
Chapter 5 Sermons and Other Speechesp. 250
Ain't I a Womanp. 254
My Slave Experience in Marylandp. 255
What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?p. 259
Prince Lambkin's Oration on the American Flagp. 261
Sister Lucyp. 262
Silasp. 265
Potee's Galp. 264
The Sun Do Movep. 268
Photograph of the Reverend John Jasperp. 278
The Highway That Skirts Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Churchp. 279
Eulogium on Henry Highland Garnet, D.D.p. 279
An Ante-Bellum Sermonp. 284
Let My People Gop. 287
Barlo's Sermonp. 289
Behold de Rib!p. 290
A Love Letter from de Lordp. 293
What of the Night?p. 299
The Eagle Stirreth Her Nestp. 308
I Have a Dreamp. 317
Eulogy for the Martyred Childrenp. 321
Our God Is Marching Onp. 322
Message to the Grass Rootsp. 324
The Ballot or the Bulletp. 330
Keep Hope Alivep. 332
Testimony of Conversionp. 344
Light as a Featherp. 345
I Am Blessed but You Are Damnedp. 346
God Struck Me Deadp. 349
Pray a Little Harderp. 351
Salvationp. 353
Chapter 6 Family Folklore and Personal Memoratesp. 356
God Delivered 'Emp. 361
Grandmap. 362
My Marster ... Was a Good Manp. 364
My Lifep. 366
Fire Sticksp. 367
It's a Good Time to Dress You Outp. 368
Childhoodp. 368
The Smell of Deathp. 369
Photograph of Clem Bolderp. 369
Our Papa's Peoplep. 370
Freedom's Childp. 373
We Were Always Freep. 376
Life among the Lowlyp. 377
Sallyp. 382
Confessionp. 386
Ruthville Post Officep. 398
Unrequited Lovep. 399
Let the Wheelers Rollp. 400
The Sheriffp. 401
I Was Leavingp. 401
I Am a Hard Womanp. 403
The Difference between Us and Themp. 409
I Limit My Syllable Outputp. 414
If You Ain't in the Know, You Are in Dangerp. 417
Driving While Blackp. 420
Chapter 7 Soul Foodp. 422
Rabbit in de Briar Patchp. 428
What's Mo Temptin to de Palate?p. 428
Ain't Ready for Integrationp. 430
Chitterlings and Fried Chitterlingsp. 431
Baked Chickenp. 432
Fried Chicken with Gravyp. 432
Pigs' Feetp. 433
Pork Chop Casserolep. 433
Beef Ribsp. 433
Spicy Country Meat Loafp. 434
I Always Think of Meatloafp. 434
Baked Shadp. 437
Jambalayap. 437
Saltfish and Cabbagep. 437
Sloppy Salmonp. 438
Pot Mealsp. 439
Chicken Pot Piep. 440
Aunt Honey's Rabbit Stew and Peach Winep. 441
Greens Ip. 443
Greens IIp. 443
Baked Beansp. 443
Corn Puddingp. 444
Corn Puddingp. 444
Candied Yamsp. 444
Potato Saladp. 445
Deviled Eggsp. 445
Cucumber Saladp. 445
Grits Casserolep. 445
Rollsp. 446
Spoonbreadp. 446
Cornbreadp. 446
My Mama's Corn Pone: or, Hot Water Cornbreadp. 447
Eggnogp. 448
Chocolate Fudgep. 449
Chocolate Fudgep. 450
Fruit Cobblerp. 450
Applesauce Rum Cakep. 451
Aunt Maude's Sweet Potato Piep. 451
Sweet Potato Puddingp. 452
Blackberry Bread Puddingp. 452
Wine Jellyp. 453
Pear Preservesp. 453
Chapter 8 Proverbs and Other Memorable Sayingsp. 454
Proverbs and Proverbial Expressionsp. 456
You Reap What You Sowp. 464
The Pot Calling the Kettle Blackp. 468
Aphorisms and Other Proverbial Sayingsp. 470
Other Figurative Languagep. 471
Reflections on American Justicep. 473
Chapter 9 Folk Rhymes, Work Songs, and Shoutsp. 474
My Ole Missis/Massap. 477
Run, Nigger, Run, De Patteroler'll Ketch Youp. 478
Long Gonep. 478
Jack and Dinah Want Freedomp. 479
The Big Beep. 479
We Raise de Wheatp. 480
I'll Eat When I'm Hungryp. 480
Aught's a Aughtp. 481
Missus in the Big Housep. 481
Charliep. 481
Destitute Former Slave Ownersp. 482
Hang Up the Shovel and the Hoep. 483
The Lord's Prayerp. 483
If You're Whitep. 484
American Justicep. 484
Oh, Lord, Will I Ever?p. 484
Bedbugp. 485
Old Man Know-Allp. 485
When I Go to Marryp. 486
Slave Marriage Ceremony Supplementp. 486
Love Is Just a Thing of Fancyp. 486
Interpret Datp. 487
John Henryp. 487
Shinep. 488
Stagoleep. 489
Railroad Billp. 491
The Signifying Monkeyp. 492
Betty and Dupreep. 494
The Wanderer's Trailp. 496
Convict's Prayerp. 498
An Escaped Convictp. 498
World War II Rhymesp. 499
The War Is Onp. 501
Craps Rhymesp. 501
Craps Linesp. 502
Jump Jim Crowp. 502
Little Sally Walkerp. 503
Hull-Gull and Other Gamesp. 504
Jubap. 507
Juberp. 508
Mary Mackp. 508
Patty-Cakep. 508
Hambone, Hambonep. 509
Grandma, Grandmap. 509
This Little Pigp. 510
We Must, We Must, We Mustp. 511
Anniebellep. 511
Raise Upp. 513
Damn de Cap'm!p. 513
I'm a Manp. 514
Got One Mind for the White Folks to Seep. 514
Street Criesp. 514
Photographs of Arabbersp. 519
Street Criesp. 521
Baptist Chitlinsp. 524
I Am Gwine to Gloryp. 525
Autograph Album Rhymesp. 526
Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffriesp. 530
Rhymes and Brags from Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clayp. 530
The Ring Shoutp. 532
Photograph of Ring Shoutp. 533
We Never Did Let It Go Byp. 534
Chapter 10 Riddles and Other Verbal Tests and Contestsp. 538
Riddlesp. 541
More Riddlesp. 542
Some More Riddlesp. 544
Tall Talesp. 545
More Tall Talesp. 545
Sample of a "Courtship" Conversationp. 546
Antebellulm Courtship Inquiryp. 547
Yo' Mamap. 548
The Dozensp. 548
More Dozensp. 549
Insultsp. 550
More Insultsp. 550
Responses to the Dozens and Other Insultsp. 551
Retortsp. 551
Chapter 11 Superstitions and Other Folk Beliefsp. 553
Popular Beliefsp. 558
More Beliefsp. 561
Good Luckp. 562
Wedding Colorsp. 562
Medical Helpp. 563
Cures for Rheumatismp. 563
Signs from the Hampton Folk-Lore Societyp. 564
Old Julep. 567
Preparation for the Crown of Powerp. 568
Sandy's Rootsp. 572
Voodoo in St. Louisp. 581
Magic Powerp. 585
Witches Who Ridep. 585
Mojop. 586
Returning to Africap. 597
Flying Africansp. 597
Voodoo Had Hold of Him, Toop. 599
Little Eight Johnp. 599
The Stubborn Pianop. 601
In the Name of the Lordp. 602
What Do You Want Here?p. 603
The Dog Ghost and the Buried Moneyp. 604
The Boy and the Ghostp. 608
Hold Him, Tabbp. 608
Old Joe Can Keep His Two Bitsp. 610
The Witch with a Gold Ringp. 611
Beliefs and Customs Connected with Death and Burialp. 613
Chapter 12 The Rumor Millp. 616
The Slave Shipp. 621
Liable to Plot Rebellionp. 624
Caution!!p. 625
Cinquep. 626
Night Doctorsp. 627
Voting Rights of African Americans to Expirep. 630
Social Security Numbers--Odd or Evenp. 631
Black Colleges to Close Down Foreverp. 631
Health Alertp. 632
You Have Been Infected with HIVp. 633
AIDSp. 634
Attention!p. 641
Driving Tipsp. 642
Black Bloodp. 642
Boycott Tommy Hilfigerp. 643
A Brief Summary of a Few Prevalent Rumorsp. 643
Chapter 13 Techlorep. 647
N.U.D.p. 650
No Fearp. 650
We Niggas Todayp. 651
Ten Indisputable Truthsp. 651
You Went to a Black Universityp. 652
Ghetto Weddingp. 654
You Probly frum da Projeks Ifp. 656
Only Black Folksp. 658
Check Blackp. 659
Ebonics Version of Windows 98p. 662
Your Office Is Ghetto When...p. 663
Two Geniesp. 664
You Know You're at a Black Churchp. 665
Alligator Shoesp. 667
Hillbilly First Aidp. 668
When a Yankee Moves Southp. 669
The Dayvorcep. 670
Redneck Jokesp. 671
West Virginia Medical Terminology for the Laymanp. 673
The Strong Black Woman Is Deadp. 674
The Liberation of Aunt Jemimap. 677
Only a Black Womanp. 678
That's My Housep. 680
Women's Problems Start with Menp. 681
Three Wise Womenp. 681
The Smarter Sexp. 682
The Gender of Computersp. 683
Life before the Computerp. 684
For All Those Born Prior to 1940p. 685
The Really Good Old Days When We Were Youngp. 686
A Little Mixed Upp. 689
You Know You're Old When...p. 690
Chuckle for the Dayp. 693
Creationp. 693
Precious Memoriesp. 694
Can You Find the 19 Books of the Bible?p. 695
From the Mouths of Babesp. 697
What My Mother Taught Mep. 698
A Few Things Not to Say to a Copp. 700
Audiovisual Resourcesp. 701
Bibliographyp. 711
Creditsp. 721
Indexp. 733