Implications for Educating
African American Students
And of the cultural forms that emerged from their complicated historical process, only black music-making was as important to the culture of African-Americans as has been the fine art of storytelling. Telling ourselves our own stories-interpreting the nature of our world to ourselves, asking and answering epistemological and ontological questions in our own voices and on our own terms-has as much as any single kctor been responsible for the survival of African-Americans and their culture. The stories that we tell ourselves and our children function to order our world, serving to create both a foundation upon which each of us constructs our sense of reality and a filter through which we process each event that confronts us every day. The values that we cherish and wish to preserve, the behavior that we wish to censure, the fears and dread that we can barely confess in ordinary language, the aspirations and goals that we most dearly prize-all of these things are encoded in the stories that each culture invents and preserves for the next generation, stories that, in effect, we live by and bough. (Gates, 1989,~. 17)
Gates, description of the purposes of storytelling in the Afi-ican American community has been used as a fiamework for the research presented in this book. In this book, I have discussed the origin of the African American narrative tradition in order to establish its historical and societal context, reviewed the literature on narrative structures among Afiican and African American cultures, given procedures, and presented finding on episodic, evaluative, performative and moral centered analyses of narratives.
The results reported in this book reveal that when examining the narrative structures of African American children, a priori taxonomies such as episodic and evaluative analyses can be applied. These taxonomies may reflect universal language principles that Afiican American children utilize when producing narratives. Indeed, there is literature (Rumelhart, 1975; Stein & Glenn, 1979) suggesting the existence of a universal story schema across cultures and languages. At the same time, however, other literature (Heath, 1983; Michaels, 1981) points to differences in narrative production by different cultural groups. Because research on narrative production by culturally and linguistically diverse groups, as well as what constitutes universal principles in narrative production, is limited, these issues require further study.