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Africana Archives: Excerpts:
African American Literature and Folklore

Literature and Folklore

Enriching selections of African American writing, folklore, drama, and more. Sample classics or discover new favorites.

Rainbow Round My Shoulder: The Blue Trail of Black Ulysses

© 1928 (Hardcover), 2006 (Paperback) by Howard W. Odum. Used by permission of the author and publisher. May not be presented in any form elsewhere without permission from copyright holders.

A Twelve-String Laura in the Rough

Sunset and the day’s work done. Early November in North Carolina. Green pinetops, red dogwood berries, crimson black-gums and brown-red oaks mingled with shapely cedars. Swift moving clouds. Diminishing rain-drops and a purple west. A black man emerging pathward into a wooded expanse from a red muddied roadway that had seen better days. A slow-moving figure heading in the direction of a rough-made laborer’s camp not far distant. Silent, a little stooped, a little shabby in dress, somewhat shambling in gait, for all appearances he might have been thinking gloomily of himself as some noble Ulysses, who “if it had pleased heaven that this poor man had been born a king, he would gracefully have filled a throne.” Thus Black Ulysses, turning campward at eventide of the second week of his employment on a new construction gang, just returned from his fourteenth pilgrimage to the thirty-eighth state of his Odyssey. MORE

Every Tub Must Sit on Its Own Bottom: The Philosophy and Politics of Zora Neale Hurston

1995, by Deborah G. Plant, © 1995 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used by permission of the University of Illinois Press

Introduction: The Reclamation of an Intellectual Life

With four published novels, two collections of folklore, a collection of short stories, numerous essays and journal articles, and several musical and dramatic productions, Zora Neale Hurston was one of the most industrious and prolific writers of her day. Her achievement can be measured against her ability to survive engulfing poverty and to resist stereotypical images of Black womanhood. It can also be measured in relation to her determination for self-empowerment. Hurston’s spirit of resistance is characteristic of women of Africa and the African diaspora who continually struggle against “racial,” sexual, economic, and cultural domination. Because of her ability to negotiate adversity and succeed on her own terms, Zora Neale Hurston stands as a model of resistance. MORE

From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

© 2002, by Daryl Cumber Dance, W.W. Norton and Co. Used by permission of the author and publisher. May not be presented in any form elsewhere without permission from copyright holders.

Ruthville Post Office

This is my account of a legend known by everyone in my family regarding the naming of local post office, the only one found by the United States Commission of Civil Rights (which studied the Southern counties in the Black Belt between 1959 and 1961) to have a Negro postmistress. It is very likely that Ruthville Post Office had held that distinction for many years – in fact, it had Black postmasters and postmistresses for most of the twentieth century. MORE

Read the Full Text of the Following Classics at the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia Library:

Maya Angelou's On the Pulse of Morning by Maya Angelou

Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself by Henry Bibb with an introd. by Lucius C. Matlack

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

Negro Spirituals by Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Uncle Tom's cabin, or Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The Confessions of Nat Turner by Nat Turner

Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington

Preview These Recommended Titles at Google Book Search:

Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction by Keith Eldon Byerman

Reading Africa Into American Literature: Epics, Fables, and Gothic Tales by Keith Cartwright

Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature by Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Ralph Waldo Ellison, Langston Hughes, James A Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks

Read Excerpts from These Recommended Titles at

The Contemporary African American Novel: Its Folk Roots And Modern Literary Branches by Bernard W. Bell

Sweet Words So Brave: The Story of African American Literature by Barbara K. Curry, James Michael Brodie (Illustrator), Jerry Butler (Illustrator)

The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel (Cambridge Companions to Literature) by Maryemma Graham (Editor)

Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary African-American Fiction by Terry McMillan (Editor), John Edgar Wideman (Preface)

My Soul Has Grown Deep: Classics of Early African-American Literature by John Edgar Wideman (Editor)

African American Literature Beyond Race: An Alternative Reader: An Alternative Reader by Gene Andrew Jarrett (Editor)

Explore. Discover. Learn. Teach.

Search Africana Heritage for Related Content


Explore Black Books: Required Reading in African-American Literature from


Students can enjoy the online, interactive crossword puzzle on African American Writers from

Copyright 2004 The University of South Florida and The Africana Heritage Project. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. For more information, contact the Africana Heritage Project via e-mail.