Research Paper on African American Folk Stories

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1443 Words
Date:  2022-07-25


African-American folk stories evolved from the need for the enslaved Africans to hold onto their culture in an environment where it was extremely difficult to gain recognition (Massood 21). The project is about an African American folk story (Tatterhood and Other Tales) which is basically a mix of traditions from both sides of the Atlantic. The folk stories have a magical quality in the sense that they try to explain how people coexisted and the need to focus on the American Dream (Massood 20). Additionally, they hold critical aspects of culture, tradition, and myths. They are defined by age, ethnicity, gender, occupation, religion, and socioeconomic niche (Bronner 30). The project belongs to the narrative genre which to a larger extent entails fairy tales, legend, folk tales, and personal experience narratives. I am interested in this particular topic because it is the best way to preserve memories and making sense of the world. The topic fosters a sense of identity and communicated values. By researching African American folktales, I will be in the right position to make a connection to my cultural heritage. Moreover, I will gain an appreciation of the rich traditions that slaves (Africans) carried to America and their effort to manage relationships in their new environment.

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The Post-Structuralist interpretive approach (one of the methods of interpreting folklore) used in the project is the feminist. "There are those people in the society who identify themselves as part of a heritage that their families have not been part of for a very long time because it suits their personal interest and the way their wish to express their own self-identity" (Sims & Martine 44). The folktale depicts women and girls as strong, resourceful, and intelligent. For instance, in the Tatterhood and Other Tales, women show some levels of bravery in the sense that they are even ready to engage in the activities which were traditionally meant for men. These characters are spirited females; decisive heroines of extraordinary courage, achievement, and wit. Unanana and the Elephant and the Giant Caterpillar are some of the stories that show courage and to a more significant extent the urge of females to work towards achieving their goals and objectives. Unanana is committed to engaging everyone in the society to ensure that equality and respect for everyone is a priority.

Feminist interpretation helps me to understand and engage with the topic in various ways. For example, I can develop common themes that may confer revolutionary benefit. Also, I will be in the right position to compare the role of the modern and traditional woman. Gender schema theory has been used to explain the recall of stereotyped behaviors with an emphasis on the information about the self in terms of the cultural definition of being male or female in the society. Young people learn about male and female roles from the culture in which they live (Massood 21). According to the gender schema theory, young people adjust their behavior to align with gender norms of their culture from the early stages of social development. The value and potential of a person in a particular culture to some extent dictate what one is ready to engage in at any given time.

For the research, I used the references provided such as Living Folk (An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions), academic journals about African-American folk stories, and peer-review journals that were written by History scholars and researchers. Getting some materials such as Living Folk was comfortable because it was already provided. Additionally, some peer-reviewed journals can easily be found on the University website. Since the outcome of the study should be defined, measured, and objectively validated, there is the need to use reliable sources. The sources must talk about African-American folk stories or films and their relevance in the society. In most cases, it is recommended to use the latest publications in an effort to keep up with the current literature.

The topic has an African origin. Traditionally, there were some activities African women were not allowed to take part in. The author tries to create a distinction between what was socially accepted traditionally and what the modern society advocates. Traditionally, it was not possible for a woman especially of an African origin to take leadership roles and make certain decisions. They were compelled to live by the rules of the society which to a more considerable extent favored males. The story is adventurous and to some extent magical. The female characters manage to outsmart, outdo, and overpower the villains and cunning minds in the story. Some of the known distinguishing features of the story include the fact that the story is intertwined with African American history and linked in many ways with African American education and social life. The story tends to diverge from other vernacular varieties of American English in the sense that clearly shows why some African-Americans preferred their culture even after leaving the continent.

Just like other families who lived in different times and places, enslaved African American families were committed to ensuring that they fight for their rights to the end. Children were compelled to abide by their parent's rules. "However, at the time, they followed their minds. Enslaved African Americans could not legally marry in any American colony or state" (Massood 22). The state laws considered them commodities and property, not legal persons who have the right to enter into a contract. The language used in the Tatterhood and Other Tales sounds African in the sense that there are instances where certain sounds are changed and replaced or simplified. The tense-aspect of some words reflects their prevalence in African language systems. To a closer analysis, the language might have undergone the kinds of mixture and simplification associated with the formation of specific dialects (Massood 23). Usually, folklore is part of non-institutional knowledge and experience in the sense that it encompasses all the values, understanding, assumptions, attitudes, feelings, and beliefs transmitted in traditional forms by word of mouth or by customary examples (Sims & Martine 11).

The sound created by African Americans induced in whites a sense of cultural dissonance, prompting feelings of confusion and disgust (Bronner 30). In the story, it is evident that there is the gain a deeper insight into the culture African Americans created in those days. This means that the emphasis should be on the slave culture and some of the ways slaves experienced their environment differently from their Euro-American owners (Massood 23). In the society, everyone is a member of numerous groups, and each has its folklore and traditional culture. For instance, in the Tatterhood and Other Tales, kids and teenagers are the main folk group. They are from different ethnic, regional, and religious groups.

"The living traditions currently practiced in the American society and passed by word of mouth, observation, or imitation is the basis of the study of folklife" (Bronner 31). Since the topic is about African American stories, it is prudent to focus on the songs, beliefs, customs, and activities that are likely to have an impact on the life of children. While some things stay the same, folklife can change somewhat from person to person or from generation to generation. Folk genres are also part of folklife. "Similar kinds of folklife should be grouped according to their shared qualities" (Bronner 31). Folk dance, oral traditions, material culture, body communication, custom, and belief are examples of folk genres. For a very long time, some people have been made to believe that specific practices that define a section of the society are not meant to foster unity.


The topic is important in American culture because it allows researchers to discover the humanity as well as personal experiences that inspire them. It also helps Americans to know their black past and what necessitated the struggle for equality. "History should be used as a proof to the white Americans that blacks have played a critical role in the creation of American culture thus deserve to be treated equally as citizens" (Massood 24). The ability to tell a well-developed narrative may be essential for an individual's literacy development. For most ethnic and socioeconomic groups of young people, the focus is on the role of early language and early literacy. African-Americans stories stem from the cultural and historical influences that to a more considerable extent fosters a preference for orality among the slaves (African-Americans).

Works Cited

Bronner, Simon J. "Practice Theory in Folklore and Folklife Studies." Folklore 123.1 (2012): 23-47.

Massood, Paula J. "To the Past and Beyond: African American History Films in Dialogue with the Present." FILM QUART 71.2 (2017): 19-24.

Sims, Martha, and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and their Traditions. Utah State University Press, 2005.

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