Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore

Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore

Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore

Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore

Synopsis

Juneteenth Texas reflects the many dimensions of African-American folklore. The personal essays are reminiscences about the past and are written from both black and white perspectives. They are followed by essays which classify and describe different aspects of African-American folk culture in Texas; studies of specific genres of folklore, such as songs and stories; studies of specific performers, such as Lightnin' Hopkins and Manse Lipscomb and of particular folklorists who were important in the collecting of African-American folklore, such as J. Mason Brewer; and a section giving resources for the further study of African Americans in Texas.

Excerpt

Juneteenth Texas represents a wide variety of viewpoints on African-American folklore in Texas. The essays range from personal memoirs to scholarly treatises and are written by both white and black writers. Given the volatile nature of writing about race in the 1990s, it is important to state the obvious at the outset: European-American and African-American perspectives on black folklore will differ; any culture will be viewed differently from the outside and from the inside. Black writers will bring certain assumptions to presentations of their own cultures that white writers will not have in writing about the same subject. It is a commonplace now in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities that all viewpoints are subjective. This does not mean that all viewpoints are equally valid but that different views are constantly being negotiated. This negotiation process is going on right now in publications about African-American culture in folklore and other fields.

We do not write about race and culture in a vacuum but within the context of the larger American society in which race is a controversial issue. A large group of scholars across disciplinary lines now considers race as a social invention and not a biological fact. This idea has been around long enough to be the subject of a cover story in Newsweek magazine in 1995, but there are still some scholars who do not agree with this perspective. To state the case for the "social construction"in a somewhat over-simplified way: genetic evidence indicates that all humans are the same and that physical differences are superficial and meaningless as demarcations of separate races. If race is to be a scientific classification system, then there should be some point where we can say one race ends and another begins, but if we look at the spectrum of color in human skin, it becomes clear that there is no clear dividing point as there is in such scientific categories as genus and . . .

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