>> Good evening! Welcome to the William G McGowan Theater here at the National Archives I am David Ferriero the Archivist of the United States And it’s a pleasure to welcome you here this evening whether you are here in the theater with us physically or joining us on our YouTube station. Before we hear from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Maria Tatar and A’Lelia Bundles I would like to alert you to two other programs. Thursday, January 18, 7 p.m. we will show the HBO documentary, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, based on the book from the same name. The film features actors and actresses reading actual letters home from men and women serving in The Vietnam War. Then Thursday, January 25th at 7 p.m Erik P. Villard and a panel will discuss the Tet Offensive. And the book, Combat Operations: Staying the Course. Former senator Chuck Hagel will give key remarks, and there will be a book signing. To learn more about these and other programs consult the monthly calendar of events, check out our website where you can get E‑mail updates. Also you will find information about other National Archives programs and activities. Another way to get more involved in the National Archives is

to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports all of our education and outreach activities. There are applications for membership in the lobby or you can become a member on archivesfoundation.org. A little known secret I tell everyone: No one is turned down for membership in the National Archives Foundation (LAUGHTER) >> One more thing, another, after tonight’s program in the theater you will be able to buy copies of this very heavy book, The Annotated African American Folktales and get them signed by our authors. The largest single category of researchers using the National Archives is that pursuing family history. People visit our website and come in person to the research rooms here in Washington and across the country to examine our documents searching for names, dates and events to fill out the family stories With every piece of evidence they find they are building connections and enlarging communities They may verify a discount or discount some of the stories, but either way, the stories remain part of their family heritage because they are repeated and handed down for generations The folktales repeated and handed out connect communities on a wider scale and convey lessons, warnings and encouragement to the listeners. Professor Gates tapped into the curiosity about where we came from his PBS series: Finding Your Roots. He and Maria Tatar bring to the forefront a collection of the shared tales from the African and African American tradition. Let’s hear from the panelists about The Annotated African American Folktales. Henry Louis Gates, Jr is the Alphonse Fletcher university professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American research at Harvard Emmy Award winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic and institution builder Professor Gates has co‑authored 21 books and created 15 documentary films. Finding Your Roots is groundbreaking genealogy, television series is filming its fifth season on PBS Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb professor of Germanic languages and literature and folklore and mythology at Harvard, the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and National Endowments for the Humanities. She has written for the New York Times, The New Republic and the Harvard Crimson Her work is featured on The Today Show and in Harvard magazine. A’Lelia Bundles, our moderator, author and journalist is working on her fifth book, The Joy Goddess of Harlem A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance, a biography of her great grandmother, her parties, friendship and international travel and arts patronage helped define an era. She was a producer at NBC News and ABC where she was the Washington, DC deputy bureau chief. A’Lelia stepped down after six years as chair of the National Archives Foundation board directors This is another opportunity for us to thank A’Lelia for her service, and to let you all know her latest accomplishment is a book for children all about Madam C.J. Walker. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome A’Lelia Bundles, Skip Gates and Maria Tatar (APPLAUSE) >> Thank you very much >> I have got to walk around (APPLAUSE) >> Good evening everyone. It’s warmed up I was worried on Monday whether we would have anybody here, but thank you all for coming We have a great crowd. This is just going to be fun tonight. Does everybody have his and her book? (LAUGHTER) >> Multiple copies? So, my friend Skip, Professor Henry Louis Gates and Professor Maria Tatar have done a really wonderful job of just reviving and bringing respect to folktales. And when you read the book you will see that there have been a debate for a long time. The politics

of respectability, which Maria and Skip, colleague Evelyn Higginbotham talked about. But to know Anna Julia Cooper, who was being described as the person who cared a lot about the politics of respectability, in fact, was one of the key advocates for resurrecting folktales. I would like for you to talk to me a little bit about this journey from these old slave tales, and rural tales, people were a little bit ashamed of to where we are now bringing the respect >> I think that’s a great question. We tend to forget the younger generation doesn’t even understand how complicated the recollection of slavery was within the African American community. You know, I was undergrad at Yale, as you know when you were at Harvard or I am so much older than A’Lelia, I’m sorry >> Nine and a half years maybe (LAUGHTER) >> But John Blassingame published The Slave Community in 1972 that’s the first full‑length book written by a black historian about slavery using the testimony of the slaves, and that’s a fact. And it was very controversial in the historical profession, the testimony of the slaves. They would take the testimony of the master but not the testimony of the slaves Well, the corollary of that, was within the African American community, after even during reconstruction, what’s ‑‑ what’s our intellectual relationship to slavery? The first example is Fisk jubilee singers, many of them wrote memoirs talking about the debates, they had among themselves about whether they would sing what DuBois call the sorrow songs or what we call the spirituals, The songs invented by slaves. They found them embarrassing. They thought it important to sing high canonical western songs in a highly arranged way. That is fine, give me, Go Down Death. I want to hear, get me one of the old negro spirituals. When Maria and I were editing this volume, and I was tasked with writing my part of the introduction, I just stumbled into the debate about folklore I knew it from an essay Arthur Fossett wrote in 1925, but I hadn’t traced it back. I looked at this volume done by Don Waters about the southern workmen and the collection of slavery in Hampton and gradually I worked my way back to the huge argument that unfolded in 1892 and ’93 and throughout the 1890s about whether it was a good idea for the soon to be new negro and that movement starts in 1894 and 1895 to be recollecting these tales, animal tales and signifying and lying and talking about Africans flying back to Africa. Was that a Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear is that how the new Negroes position themselves vis‑a‑vis the white racism that was the part and parcel of the institutionalization of Jim Crow, the rollback and reconstruction or not. Should we shut the door on slavery? Why? Because these tales were told in dialect Dialect is the linguistic remnant of slavery It’s difficult for people not to internalize their own oppression. As you know very well there were huge debates about how you confront anti‑black racists, should we wear three‑piece suits to bed (LAUGHTER) >> Never go out in public with ‑‑ I don’t know with your hair in rollers. This is stuff ‑‑ I will give you another example. I am from Piedmont, West Virginia, three hours up the Potomac past Cumberland. My fourth grade grandparents, three sets of free Negroes from the 18th and 19th Century lived 18 miles from where I was born. Our little county, Mineral county West Virginia integrated in 1955, only a handful of black people up there, the swimming pool ‑‑ I started first grade in 1956 at the white school, as we would call it, right? The swimming pool didn’t integrate until 1957 because the nudity and sexuality, they had to sneak up the idea of integrating the swimming pool. What this has to do with this I will tell you. I loved to swim my brother, Paul would swim every day. My mother would

give us a little lunch and Avon moisturizing cream, she would say, Skippy, you have to dry yourself off and put on the Avon moisturizing cream on, you can’t look crusty and ashy in front of white people. This is 1957, I was seven years old. I don’t know what I looked like, I was lathered up, white stuff all over me (LAUGHTER) >> That in small pre‑figured but these huge debates over negro folklore as we would call it. Was it embarrassing to recall tales about Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Fox, or was that a good thing for the race. Anna Julia Cooper made an amazing speech in May 1893, we reprint here, in which she said only an idiot doesn’t understand that these tales are a sign of genius. That people, the way people survived that they had a take on their own being in the world What I think of as second order of reflection When you could do a thing and reflect on yourself doing a thing. These were oppressed in the most hard circumstances, and still they found a way to allegorize their situation through Br’er Rabbit and Bear >> Everybody doesn’t know who Anna Julia Cooper is and what a scholar she was >> She was a prototypical black feminist, leading black intellectual. Where and when I entered the Negro race entered with me She wrote Voice of the South in 1892. Even many ‑‑ Anna Julia ‑‑ she studied at the Sorbonne? >> I can’t remember. But I will think of it by the end of the segment. But many of the Anna Julia Cooper scholars didn’t know the essay, which is one reason we printed in ‑‑ we reprinted it in your Penguin 19th Century African-American women’s writings anthology as well >> The complicated a piece of this, I know Maria, you talked about this. That Joel Chandler Harris complicated it in some cases he was saving it, but he also made this something that people felt ashamed of. Let’s talk about that >> It’s so interesting. Skip is talking about the disavowal of folk tales by the black community, then at the same time you have Joel Chandler Harris saying I’v got to write volumes, he didn’t produce just one volume, he spent his entire life producing collections of black folktales in dialect. But many of you who know the collection also know that it’s framed by a conversation between Uncle Remus and a little white boy Suddenly these tales this entire cultural legacy is handed over, not just to a white person, a child, but it’s moved into the culture of childhood. So, now this happens in the European tradition as well the stories from the childhood of culture suddenly become children’s fare. The oral story tradition dies out and then suddenly these tales become cartoon versions of themselves. So you get the Song of the South where they literally are cartoons. Children’s fare, yet I think one of the things that we forget is that they ‑‑ the folklore has not vanished, it has not gone away. It’s Langston Hughes who says, it’s still here, I love that phrase, still quiet but it’s also here. And it surfaces in Toni Morrison, who writes a novel called Tar Baby or incorporates flying Africans, myths about flying Africans into the Song of Solomon. So it has a strange way of kind of a disappearing and re‑appearing act And these strange appropriations and reappropriations of the tales. I sort of think in many ways these are stories that are cross generational They also belong to all of us. The human mind thinks everywhere alike. And working with Skip on this collection one of the things that I discovered is that there is this golden chain of folklore, of folktales that connect all of us >> It’s true. I would say the metaphor I use is underground and (inaudible) >> Yes >> They are underground and then they surface I asked the driver in preparation for this, the man who picked me up from the car service at the ‑‑ thank you (LAUGHTER) >> ‑‑ an African‑American man, I don’t know his name ‑‑ I know his name, I didn’t get his permission to recount what I am going to recount, so I am not going to say. But Maria and I always argue about the Song of the South. I just

wanted a reality check. I said to him, he is David, you ever watch Song of the South? He is about my age. Man, I love Song of the South, Uncle Remus, nobody told me it was racist until political correctness came along Did you think it was racist? No, we loved it. In my household we loved it Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear. I remember when I read Alice Walker wrote that famous essay saying how racist it was, what part of this is ‑‑ (LAUGHTER) >> Maybe I had to expurgated ‑‑ (inaudible) I didn’t see the racist part. I bought it You know, you can go out and buy it. And the guy who played Calhoun on Amos and Andy, he did the voice of Br’er Rabbit. When you hear that, well it’s exaggerated. But when I was growing up. My father ‑‑ we had Joel Chandler Harris next to Mother Goose. My father told my brother and me Br’er Rabbit stories all the time. But he didn’t do it in an exaggerated voice He just said oh Br’er Rabbit. There was a Tar Baby it wasn’t written in the exaggerated dialect that Joel Chandler Harris used. Which changes your relationship to the stories >> I notice when I was teaching the Uncle Remus stories, we read some of the tales out loud. Everyone became really uncomfortable because we realized we were entering into this minstrelsy tradition imitating the voice of Uncle Remus. So the stories of ‑‑ they were so popular in the 90s and early part of the 20th Century, who reads Uncle Remus today? Well, you did (LAUGHTER) >> How many in this audience grew up with Uncle Remus stories just as ‑‑ well, 10%, 15% >> 15% counting over here (LAUGHTER) >> Those themes, it’s really about those themes of the underdog being witty and being sly What are some of the things ‑‑ Maria, you have done the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, what are the things that you saw there and the things that really stand out in African American folktales >> I think the emphasis on language for one thing. And I hope that we get a chance to visit the talking skull and stories like that These stories offer opportunities for reflection for thinking. So, language is used in these extraordinary clever ways and this tale shock and startle. Now, all fairy tales, all folklore has a way of incorporating high coefficients of weirdness (LAUGHTER) >> It’s kind of what is happening, you finish the story, wait, what is going on here. And you start, there is a reflex to start talking about it. So I think the emphasis on language, reflection, intellectection, courage. Not so much as I would say what would you say in treachery if kindness is raised it’s in the context of treachery. The wonderful dialectical relationships that comes in, up in the tales. Skip and I talked about this, the way the stories take up the deep cultural contradictions. Nature versus nurture. how do you come to terms with that. What is more important? I think this would be a great opportunity for you to tell the story that you told me three years ago about the scorpion and the frog which takes up the whole nature‑nurture question. Do you want to read it or do you want to tell it? >> I would rather tell it >> After you finish that, I have one other question but ‑‑ no, no, no, keep going, I want you to tell stories >> Okay. I would add it to your list, Wit was celebrated imagination. The Tar Baby story is all about this formal rabbit stuck the fox is going to eat him, he convinces him to throw him in the briar patch where he would be safest It’s an amazing story >> It’s also about passive resistance. What an allegory >> For Toni Morrison of all of the folktales she could have used to allegorize, she picked the Tar Baby story, which is incredible, remarkable

We know it in the form that we do because of Joel Chandler Harris. You can say all you want about Joel Chandler Harris and the device he used with the white boy. He was the first major publisher and collector of African American folklore. Two legacies. One those volumes secondly Charles Chestnut was legal secretary, legal clerk, right? And he is reading Joel Chandler Harris, he says, this white guy can do it, I am black, I can do it better. He was the first black author published in the Atlantic Monthly He did it in a different way. But here is the story, of the scorpion and the frog. This is the way my father told me. You will see a different version in this book. Island’s on fire. And you know, if you stay on the island you are going to die. So, all of the animals are, you know, lined up along the shore, and they somehow get to the adjacent island. The frog is cool because the frog can swim. Frog is ready to depart Scorpion can’t swim. He is frog’s mortal enemy says Mr. Frog, Mr. Frog, save me, please save me. I am going to die. I am going to burn to death. Man, you are a scorpion, why should I help you? Why would I be mean? I am going to ride on your back. You are going to swim over to that island and I get off, we go back to normal business but ‑‑ (LAUGHTER) >> ‑‑ why would I hurt you? You are going to save my life. Frog said, I didn’t want that on my conscience, get on my back. Frog do they get into the island halfway through the water, and he goes pretty good thing I am, I know I will have saved one of my fellow creatures. As he is thinking of that, zap like a bolt of lightning he feels the sting of the scorpion. He realizes the scorpion has done his worst fear, his nightmare, the scorpion stung him ‑‑ stung him, he is going to die. He looks up Mr. Scorpion, why? Why did you do that? We both going to die The scorpion says: Because it’s my nature >> Exactly >> That’s a cold story (LAUGHTER) >> Can I take the story back to Africa? >> Yes, ma’am >> There is a tale which is called: A Vital Decision. The same question about nature‑nurture comes up in that story, that storyteller, like Skip, I will try to give you a sense of what goes on it was recorded by a strange German anthropologist Leo Frobenius. It begins with a rat catcher, who is an abusive father He slaps his son around. The son is finally fed up and leaves. He is then adopted by a rich man who feeds him, clothes him, educates him. One day the rat catcher comes back to re‑claim his son. And the wealthy man is truly upset. They are at a crossroads and the wealthy man says to the boy, I am going to put a sword in your hand, and you must choose, you must either kill your biological father or kill me. And I will read you the end of this story as recorded by Frobenius The young man stood between the two men with the sword drawn, should he kill the father the man who raised him but who had also nearly killed him for the sake of the rat, or should he kill the rich man who helped him and made him wealthy. Which meant he would be returning to catching rats. He had no idea what to do. And if the three are not already dead then they are no doubt still standing there. So, you can imagine, if this story were told, you would have to start talking about it. Figure out what is more important, what matters And here we get back to that whole question of reflection. Thinking more, thinking harder I love the fact that Einstein’s advice to parents, if you want intelligent children read them fairy tales, if you want more intelligent children read them more fairy tales >> Why is this a perfect time for this book, we need the wit, the ability to think, why is this a good time?

(LAUGHTER) >> You have to read the book >> We are under siege (LAUGHTER) >> The American imagination is under siege right now as far as I am concerned >> I want you all to read some stories. I do want to ask you about flying, because that is ‑‑ pertains to now >> All right. We will do this ‑‑ I will do the first part, you the second. It’s called the Flying Man. I heard about the flying man up in Arkansas, Jonesborro, the police went up to him, the faster they talked, the faster he walked until he spread his arms and sailed right on off They never did catch him, he was faster than the planes. They told about him all through the south. In Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas >> Relevant >> Yes. So flying Africans. This is a story many of you will be familiar with because it appears ‑‑ a version of it appears in Virginia Hamilton’s: The People could Fly This is, All God’s Children Could Fly. I am going to give an abbreviated version of it It starts with, a young woman in the fields picking cotton, she has just given birth She is suffering in those fields and the overseer is there with his whip and begins to strike her with his lash. And then, suddenly, and here the importance of language, the young woman hears words being chanted. And they are not familiar to her, it’s African words being chanted by an old man, by the elder in the group. And she rises up and flies ‑‑ flies away as the old man is chanting the words. Then the driver hurried, hurried the rest to make up for her loss. The sun was very hot indeed. And then suddenly the entire group begins ‑‑ takes off, takes flight The master, the overseer and the driver looked after them as they flew beyond the wood, beyond the river, miles and miles until they pass beyond the last rim of the world and disappeared into the sky like a handful of leaves. They were never seen again >> Yes >> And maybe you want to talk about the Igbo landing >> Remember Paul Marshall, she wrote about Igbo Landing, that’s the African American tradition slaves, Igbo I ‑‑ by the way, we know from David Ellis’ Transatlantic Slave Trade database, which any of you can look up, it’s an accessible website, 16% of our ancestors who came enslaved from Africa, 16% came from eastern Nigeria. And the high portion of them would be Igbo, they are very much part of the African American culture statistically through the slave trade So, Igbo Landing, these slaves came and they weren’t going to put up with slavery. And the ‑‑ what was their choice? They all one day walked to the shore, head back to Africa and walked in the water, Igbo Landing What’s ‑‑ that’s told with great admiration What is common to the story of walking back to Africa, drowning or flying, which Toni Morrison Song of Solomon is, it’s a form of suicide. We could romanticize it ‑‑ they jumped off cliffs, like Solomon, and that was it. It was a form of liberation and the cost was your own life. And if all of the slaves committed suicide, all of the black people here disappear, unless you are a recent African immigrant. So it is very complicated. The accommodation that our ancestors made with slavery like they bided their time so that we would be here. That’s an amazing choice. You talk about the ultimate example of delayed gratification is when you say, you know, another day is coming. We are going to pick this cotton, you know, live this horrible life but one day our descendents will be free. And to believe that and to re‑shape Christianity in our own image, to invent songs, to talk about rabbits and bears and foxes and allegorize your own condition so you can protest and the master wouldn’t kill you. To steal learning

from the white man, as Frederick Douglass put it, master the ABC’s and do that hundreds of years so we would be here. It brings tears to my eyes the sacrifices that our ancestors made so we can be the great African‑American people of 42 million from the original 388,000 that came directly from Africa is one of the greatest tales ever told. When you want to know my motivation in doing African American studies generally and doing the work I do and the great project with Maria is to bear witness to the triumph of our people’s soul (APPLAUSE) >> When you talk about the journey. Connecting into Africa, going through the period of slavery, coming out of slavery. There is a difference between some of the rural stories and urban stories talk about that >> You want ‑‑ can I do ‑‑ >> I know you want to do Signify >> I want to do Shining, the Titanic >> That too >> You want to talk first? >> No, read. Go ahead >> All right >> And then we will talk about it rural urban >> My brother and I first heard of Shining the Titanic from daddy. My father was a great storyteller and he was funny. He made Redd Foxx look like an undertaker. I don’t know where daddy is, wherever he is he is cracking jokes. One of the great things, not many scholars have written about this, one of the great things about segregation, even in World War II, was in the Army it cross pollinated black communities. Because all of ‑‑ Charles Amos, my mentor at Yale, first to get tenure in the English department, he went to Dartmouth before the war, he was stationed with my dad in Camp Lee Virginia in Petersburg. My father graduated high school and worked at the paper mill. When he got out, Charles Amos had a B.A. in English from Dartmouth. And they were both there at Camp Lee in Virginia. My father would tell my brother and me all of these black men he met, all of these black men from Mississippi, Alabama, were illiterate, they could recite, daddy would say, a thousand verses of Shining the Titanic. He never heard of this stuff. He memorized it. He would tell us in the cleaned up version because they were filthy ‑‑ filthy, dirty. Sexist, dirty, trash talking, one of my favorites, I wrote a book, I got tenure on this but Shining the Titanic, the story iss apocryphal. Jack Johnson, we know Jack Johnson, he had a white wife or white girlfriend, he wanted to ride on the main voyage of the Titanic, it never happened. This is what black tradition says Marcus Garvey said the Black Star Line is going to take us to Africa. It is because the Cunard line was the White Star Line. The Titanic was the new ship of the White Star Line, according to tradition, they wouldn’t like Jack Johnson on because they were racist. So it’s all these white people. It is an allegory like -serves you right- It’s a terrible thing to say, that’s what the traditions say Except there was one black man. In reality there was one black man. We didn’t know this until recently, he was Haitian, died with ‑‑ and his wife and child lived. He was on there. You can look it up. The black tradition, there is one black man who, of course, is working in the boiler room. He is shoveling coal, his name is Shine. And for those of you who don’t know Shine is a metonymic insult for black people, skin is perspiring, you’re dark you shine. Shines were black people Almost as soon as the news of the Titanic broke, some genius in Harlem had invented this poem. And the poem has a zillion verses. You know, you can riff on it all day long. But this is the version we use It was 1912 when all the news got around the great Titanic sinking down (recites poem) Shine came running up on deck and told the captain, please the water in the boiler room is up to my knees captain says, take your black self on down there. Now captain said take your black self on back down there. I go 150 pumps to keep the boiler room clear. Shine went back in the hole, started shoveling coal singing Lord have mercy, Lord oh, my soul. Just then half the ocean jumped across the boiler room deck, Shine yelled to the captain, the water is around

my neck. Captain said go back neither fear nor doubt I’ve got a hundred more pumps to keep the water out. Shine said your words sound happy your words sound true, this is one time captain your words won’t do (LAUGHTER) >> I don’t like chicken and I don’t like ham, and I don’t believe your pump is worth a damn (LAUGHTER) >> Old Titanic was beginning to sink, Shine pulled his clothes off and jumped in the drink he said, little fish, big fish and shark fishes, too get out of my way because I’m coming through Captain on bridge, Shine, Shine, save poor me, I will make you rich as any man could be. Shine said there is more gold on land than there is on the sea. Shine swam on. When all of them white folks went to heaven, Shine was at Sugar Ray’s bar drinking Seagram’s and 7 (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) >> There are variance. Mrs. ‑‑ Mrs. Aster, I can’t do that, sexist, I can’t do that one You can imagine like Mr. Aster, Mr. Rockefeller, floating on ice, Shine, Shine, save poor me, Shine could see and Shine said money good, money don’t last, Shine is going to save his own black ass. The refrain is Shine swam on (LAUGHTER) >> It’s also riffing on the fact that black people, we are not buoyant, we are the only human beings that couldn’t swim. So that’s the urban version 1912. The question was the difference between the rural and urban >> Rural and urban. That’s a tough one. Because of course these traditions would have come from rural story telling situations. That is you are out in the field and you have the hollers and the songs. How do you entertain yourself? And there is another story, Two Bundles, I hope we will have a chance to look at. Which tells the story of ‑‑ well, maybe I just ‑‑ >> Do it now >> Two Bundles in the Road, one is really big, full of all kinds of things, and the black man runs out and gets it and guess what is in it? A hoe, a shovel, a pick axe. The white man takes the little bundle, guess what is in it? A pen and paper, a notebook >> Isn’t that amazing? >> There you are, you don’t have the instruments of writing, this is ephemeral cultural property, you are telling it in the fields, it’s going to disappear. We get back to the question of: Who owns it? Who wrote it down? Anthropologists wrote it down in Africa. And then we have newspaper men of all things in the south who read Joel Chandler Harris and say, I don’t like the way he told that story, I heard a different version. You have a range of people, again many connected to the press, who decide that they want to preserve these stories So, what happens when you move from the cities, from the country to the city. And I think that’s where the Hampton Institute comes into play >> Yeah >> And then also the aversion to the stories Let’s push them away, let’s disavow them, let’s keep them as far away as possible. Just about the time of Harris stories are being radioactive Folklore migrates back and forth from the country to the city. It’s just ‑‑ it tends to cross borders all the time, it’s a transgressive art basically >> People in the black upper class were often embarrassed by these, you know, (inaudible) That’s the way it was. If you read about the politics of respectability as you so sagely said, Evelyn Higginbotham’s work, you see how it’s manifest. Unfortunately, southern workman Hampton University made the right decision, sent out black people to collect It’s because Joel Chandler Harris was so popular making so much money. The American Folklore Society, founded in 1888, the Harvard professor comes down to Hampton at this conference and says, you have to do it. Anna Julia Cooper is there, yes we really do have to do it. We can collect it better than the white people, repeating songs they heard from the slaves, nurse or maid or whatever, we are going to do it authentically All during 1890’s they sent out students from Hampton, recent graduates and faculty members,

and send in these stories that they collected from home. It was a treasure chest. We published them in one section in the book >> Yes, along with Dubois’ Brownies book that made an effort. Oriented towards children but these were magazines that were read by parents to their children by adults. Again, cross generational But they are a second effort to preserve and to ‑‑ to recognize the importance of these stories in cultural identity. And, again, you know just figuring out who you are, what you are doing here. And what the dreams and aspirations were of your ancestors. As Toni Morrison says, listen to the ancestry. What were their dreams, what were their hopes and the struggles and the conflicts that they dealt with, the despair they felt. It’s sort of all there. And you just have to figure it out >> The opposition between work and, you know, arduous manual labor and reading and writing, that’s amazing. You know, somehow we got to work and the white man got the pen and ink and they had more power through that? I read about this in the Signifying Monkey that the African was given a choice, this is the creation story. Many versions of these creation stories which are funny, like why black people are black it’s at the expense, you know, they would be five people, you had a choice, God would say okay today I am going to give you a color The black man goes to sleep in the sun that’s why you know we are darker, and all of that But one of the (inaudible) tells is a black man was given a choice between all of the gold in the world, and reading and writing. And that ties into the fact that we forget this, even late middle ages, before 1500, most of Europe’s gold came from West Africa. There is a story of a great emperor, if you Google net worth.com the richest man was Mansa Musa estimated at 400 billion dollars. He was the emperor of Mali and made a pilgrimage to 1320-1325 to Mecca and had so much gold that it devalued the price of gold in Europe for ‑‑ in Egypt and The Middle East for a long time The point is, in ancient Egypt the gold came from Nubia in middle ages it came from Mali Another period the gold came from western Zimbabwe. So Africa has been a source of gold to the world particularly the west for a long time. So, this is the allegory, the Africans, given a choice, what do you want, all the gold in the world, or the ability it read and write? And the African ‑‑ he is just recording folktales from Africa, the African chose all the gold in the world. But the beauty of that story –Which is the wrong choice >> The African also chose to tell a story And made something from nothing, that’s the rejection of wealth and gold, the richness of the story telling tradition. I love the way these stories they contradict ‑‑ they send messages and then they force you to think a little bit about the message that is being sent and to realize that, you know, these are deceptively simple tales. And the deceptively simple and simply deceptive. You have to start thinking about why this tale was told, and how it’s been handed down and what different generations have made of the story >> Well, you know, reading Maria’s work she is the queen of folktale analysis mythology And she would ‑‑ the thing about Grimm, the key word is grim, the stories were weird, old person eating children, what in the Hell is that about? That’s not how I want to go to sleep (laughter) Hansel and Gretel, children being boiled. Dilemma tales as you put it. They are ‑‑ they are odd and they are scary. You have to kill your father or adoptive father, what? And the answer is, it is indeterminate. There is no right answer to that >> No right answer >> If they are still there, he is still poised with the sword trying to decide who to kill, that’s hard work, man >> So, among your favorite stories, I would love for you to read some and tell some more, but I am curious how you made the selection Because there is such a wide range, so when people

pick up the book, they know go here to go look at (inaudible) or read something about the flying all God’s children, what were the things that were really important to you to include? >> Well, it was an immersive experience there, you are standing over the caldron of stories, it’s not just African American but Africa ‑‑ I made a vow, I can’t analyze things that are written in a language that I don’t know, a culture that I don’t know. So, when Bob Wiler, our editor, proposed the collaboration, I thought, no, this is terraignotica, I can’t do this. It was like a blank slate or huge jigsaw puzzle in front of me with a million pieces. It was in a totally unscientific way, unsystematic, which was just to read ‑‑ I had the good fortune of being at the Hutchins Institute, and working with other scholars there. And just going from one thing to the next. And suddenly, the big picture emerges. You begin to see, here are areas that I really want to highlight. And so the organization ‑‑ once the organization became clear it was easier. But then the organization became clear and Skip then came to me and said what about the southern workmen (LAUGHTER) >> So, there is a lot of rejiggering and working >> We approached it completely opposite ways Hirston uses one of the great and one of the earliest collections of black folk tales by a black person– 1935. She uses two metaphors one the anthropologists fit like a girdle >> Chemise >> Right, a chemise >> That’s very different (LAUGHTER) >> It’s very different. I think of it, scholarship is like Spandex, is that what it’s called? (LAUGHTER) >> And the other is spy glass of anthropology That she couldn’t ‑‑ she wanted to go back home and collect folktales, tell me a tale. If my father were here, I told Maria a million times, if I had taken her home to Piedmont, can you tell them the tales. They would just tell the tale. It wasn’t story telling or tale telling. Hurston had to get over that. She tried to put people in this academic, faux academic setting to have them tell the story. I wanted Maria with her extensive knowledge of mythology and folktale to read a thousand books of black folktale and come at it from the broadest possible set of selections working downward. For me, I started with key canonical tales I had grown up with like Shine the Titanic and the Signifying Monkey, Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, I started with my own canon. There 150 tales there and there are are probably a couple dozen things which were resonant to me as an African American, someone of my generation as a scholar of African American studies. Things like Tar Baby. Or flying Africans, how could anybody in my field not think about these things or signify or whatever. Then we met. That’s how we met. I mean, metaphorically met in terms finishing the Table of Contents And she had a selection and then I thought about none of the southern workmen are here I worked my way backwards in this argument which is something very important to me. I keep coming back to the debates within the race about what blackness is. I co‑teach with Larry Vogel a course at college Blackness 101, introduction to African American studies It’s about the debates black people had about what it means to be black. They have been debating this since the first 20 black people got off the boat at Jamestown in 1619. There has been, we told a joke in West Virginia, the democratic politics, they didn’t have factions, they had fractions. That’s the same in the black community. My younger daughter Eliza would say -Back in the day all black people were united. I said when was that? Must have been before I was born. So,

anyway ‑‑ >> We have about five more minutes, I know (LAUGHTER) >> So just each of you, pick a story that you want to read or tell >> Oh, gosh. The Gopher Who goes to Court, I don’t know whether I can reconstruct it, for some reason it comes to mind. He goes to court and he looks around, and he sees that the judge is an owl, the jury is full of owls and the lawyers are all owls. He says, I am getting out of here. He just leaves, and decides that he is going to try to find a new location for his trial. And it’s called blood is thicker than water. And that’s the punch line that I failed to give you (LAUGHTER) >> Blood is thicker than water. And it’s ‑‑ I am trying to remember. I think Sonia Hurst has a version of it. There are hundreds of different versions of it. You better watch out. You better be careful. There is a distinction between us versus them. And you need to know what you are doing. So ‑‑ >> Or you are going to be consumed >> Again by the scorpion >> Absolutely. Well, if I could find it, I am looking for the Signifying Monkey. Let me see. Shine the Titanic. That’s how people talk, TITAMIC (LAUGHTER) >> Okay. Here it is. It’s a little bit long >> No. Well, you ‑‑ >> Are you sure? >> It’s a short one >> The monkey and the lion got talking one day, he looked down and said, lion I heard you are king in every way I know somebody who don’t think that’s true He told me he could whip the living daylights out of you. the three characters, Monkey lion and elephant. Everybody knows that, everybody knows the conventional wisdom, the lion is king of the jungle, the real king is the elephant, that’s what is important about the story. Lion said, who monkey said lion I ain’t talking about your momma, ain’t talking about your grand momma too, I am too polite to tell you what he said about your. Lion said who said what, who? Monkey in the tree lying on the ground he kept on signifying but he didn’t come down. Monkey said His name is elephant, he is not your friend Lion said he don’t need to be because the day will be his head. Lion took of through the jungle lickety-split meaning to grab elephant and tear him bit to bit Come across copping a righteous nod under a fine cool shady tree. Lion said you big old no good so and so it’s either you or me. Lion let out a solemn roar and he bopped elephant with his paw, he took his trunk and busted old lion’s jaw Lion let out another roar, reared, six feet tall, elephant just kicked him in the belly, laughed to see him drop and fall. lion rolled over, caught the elephant by the throat, elephant just shook him loose and butted him like a goat, then he tromped him and he stomped him, ’til the lion yelled oh no, it was near nigh sunset when elephant let lion go. Signifying monkey was still sitting in the tree, looked down and saw the lion and said why lion who could that there be. Lion said It’s me. monkey rapped lion you look more dead than alive. Lion said Monkey, I don’t want to hear your signifying jive Monkey just kept on signifying. You for sure caught Hell lion. Elephant whipped you fairly well, Why, lion, you look to me you have been in the precinct station with the third degree Else you look like you are high on gage ‑‑ which is marijuana ‑‑ then got caught in a monkey cage. You ain’t no king to me, I don’t think you could even as much as roar If you try I am liable to come down out of this tree and wipe your tail some more. Monkey started laughing jumping up and down he jumped so hard the limb broke and he landed bam on the ground. When he went to run his foot slipped and he fell flat down. GRRR, the lion was on him with his front feet and is hind Monkey hollered ow, I didn’t mean it Mr. Lion. Lion said You little flee bag you I will eat you up alive. I wouldn’t have been in this fix at all if it wasn’t for your signifying jive Please Mr. Lion, if you let me go I have something to tell you, please I think you ought to know. Lion let the monkey loose, similar to Tar Baby. Lion let the monkey loose to see what his tale could be. Monkey jumped right back up into his tree. What I was going to tell you, said monkey, you square old so and so, if you fool with me I will get elephant to whip your head some more. Lion beat to his unbooted knees, your signifying children better

stay up in the trees. Which is why monkey does his signifying way up out of the way (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) >> All right. So, we are going to go upstairs in just a couple of minutes, so that they can sign books. We are not going to have time for Q and A. I know that’s so much a part of what we do here. But the schedule is a little tight. Closing thoughts on what people will get, what the reward will be for reading the bedtime stories. We had fun. People laughed >> I don’t want ‑‑ one of the reasons I wanted to do this, I think we have agreed we will do Africa next, is that we are in a position to canonize things. These stories won’t be lost again. They are in a volume There are 150 of them, well annotated. Anybody anywhere can use them this volume to teach dedicated, Maria dedicated to her family and I have dedicated it to my granddaughter, who is three years old. And I quoted the Jewish L’dor va’dor, from generation to generation I want one of my fondest memories, thinking about my little bookshelf it was Mother Goose and Uncle Remus. I read that stuff. I want ‑‑ I want little black kids, white kids, Asian kids, and every kind of kid to have this volume on their shelf in their bedroom like I did But in a way that was not the most ideal way, as my friend Dr. Tatar says, because it was through Joel Chandler Harris. We are now in a position we have the authority to make a difference and these stories won’t be lost We are going to create a website, like a portal because there are many collections of black folktales for people in this room. So we want to create a portal so anybody could have access to thousands of these folktales and recordings of them >> And new ones will come >> And new ones will come. So that’s why we have done. What we have done at this moment to answer one of the first questions that you have asked >> That is so important, making it new. And I think both of us, these are only 150 stories This is just a foundation. And I think ‑‑ I love the idea of sequels and new volumes that come out. I just want to close by quoting Skip. I was in the airport yesterday, and I did what Skip likes to do, pick up a Penguin volume to read on the plane, and I look and the introduction is by Henry Louis Gates. Jr quotes Faulkner it resonated with me so powerfully, the and I think it answer your question aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life by artificial means. So to arrest motion by artificial means and hold it fixed, so that a hundred years later when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Bringing these stories back and what you write and you produce, the way that you make it new will come back in another ‑‑ another century, we hope. And there we are >> Thank you all (APPLAUSE) >> Me too. Very much (APPLAUSE) >> Thank you >> And we will see you in a couple of years at the African folktales. So we will see you outside where they will be signing books Thank you all very much for coming