Tales of the Congaree

By Edward C. L. Adams; Robert G. O'Meally | Go to book overview

Foreword

These sketches are typical of the negroes of lower Richland County and the great swamps of the Congaree. This section is in the heart of South Carolina and within a few miles of the capital city, Columbia. It is remarkable that so definite a survival of the negro of Africa as modified by white relationships should be maintained in such purity in the very midst of so exclusive a white culture.

These stories show the influence of slavery, the dread of the overseer--escapes and capture--things that have lived and will always live in the memory of the negro. These memories, combined with superstitions brought from Africa and terror created by the canebrakes and jungles of the Congaree, with its lakes, streams, guts, mysterious shadows, and yellow waters, with its old fields and dikes, relics of slave days, all make up what may be called the psychology of the negro of these sketches.

The dialect is of course English shot through and influenced by the traditions and sentiments of the African slaves. Very few genuine words are distinguishable, but there is a marked influence of the African sense of melody and rhythm. This gives to every word, even if otherwise good English, a peculiar dialectal sound and significance.

It needs to be remembered that this particular dialect, while pure nigger, is neither the dialect of the coast nor of the northern part of the Black Border, but is absolutely distinct, and is the product of the soil, race, and environment. In other words, it is English as adapted to the needs and knowledge of these primitive peoples. Sometimes a word that is pronounced correctly has several dialect meanings, and several sounds of the same word may be found in a single sentence. There is no rule.

Some of the poems are fragments of sermons in which the preacher or prayer-leader has worked himself into a chant and in which he swings and sways, and members of the congregation repeat words or lines that impress them.

-109-

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Tales of the Congaree
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction Masks of Edward C. L. Adams xi
  • Notes lxv
  • Congaree Sketches 1
  • Contents 3
  • The Big Swamps of the Congaree 5
  • The Hopkins Nigger 6
  • Jonas 8
  • A Freshet on the Congaree 9
  • Hell Fire 11
  • The Rattlesnake 14
  • Sunning on the Golden Stairs 15
  • Judge Foolbird 16
  • Old Sister 17
  • Old Sister's Friends 20
  • Old Sister in Heaven 23
  • Old Sister in Hell 26
  • The Settin' Up 29
  • The Little Old Man on the Gray Mule 30
  • The Lake of the Dead 32
  • Aunt Dinah's Cat 34
  • Murder Vs. Liquor 35
  • Old Dictodemus 37
  • Fragment of a Negro Sermon 42
  • His Day is Done 45
  • Ole Man Rogan 48
  • Big Charleston 50
  • The Yellow Crane 53
  • White Folks is White Folks 56
  • Wild Goose Nest 58
  • Transmigration 60
  • Belton's Spirit 62
  • The Animal Court 63
  • Ole Man Tooga's Chile (a Tale of the Chain Gang) 65
  • Fine My Chile 68
  • The Falling Star 70
  • Jay-Birds 71
  • Jack-Ma-Lantern 72
  • Ole Man Rouse 74
  • If You Want to Find Jesus 76
  • The Ghosts of Elm Savannah 78
  • The Crow 79
  • Primus 80
  • Jumping-Gut 81
  • Cazenova 83
  • Spirit Dogs and Barking Snakes 84
  • Death Owl 85
  • De Law Got Simon 86
  • A Fool Nigger 88
  • The Two Ducks 89
  • The Mule and the Ox 90
  • That Quart Kept on Beckoning Me 91
  • Don't 'sturb a Houn' 93
  • Don't You Play Wid Married Wimmens 94
  • Tad's Advice to His Son 95
  • Old Sister's Advice to Her Daughter 97
  • Jesus Had Trouble All Over the World 99
  • Nigger to Nigger 103
  • Contents 105
  • Foreword 109
  • The Swamps 111
  • Nigger to Nigger 131
  • White Folks 179
  • Ghosts and Angels 219
  • Bur Rabbit 233
  • Preachers 257
  • Slavery Time 275
  • Funerals 287
  • Glossary 303
  • Appendixes 313
  • Act I 329
  • Act II 357
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