ABSTRACT

African American folkloric traditions have taken on many recognizable forms, ranging from the Brer Rabbit and John the Slave trickster tales to the blues, from legends and folktales to spirituals and gospels, from folk beliefs and ghostlore to preaching and folk expressions. Scholars studying such patterns have garnered their categorizations of the lore from a variety of collected sources, such as Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men and the seven-volume Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore. Patterns in the lore reflect patterns in African American history, including strategies for survival, ways of manipulating a hostile Anglo American environment, and a world view that posited the potential for goodness prevailing in spite of the harshness of American racism and the exclusion of blacks from American democracy and the American dream. African American folklore, as Ralph Ellison astutely pointed out, revealed the willingness of blacks to trust their own sense of reality instead of allowing the crucial parts of their existence to be defined by others.