NEW YORK FOLKLORE
Vol. 18, Nos. 1-4, 2000*
Through African-Centered Prisms
Guest Editor: Barbara L. Hampton
with editorial contributions by
John W. Suter, Karen Taussig-Lux, and Sally Atwater
AN EARLY MODEL FOR THE STUDY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN FOLKLORE: CARTER G. WOODSON AND THE JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY
by Cassandra A. Stancil
Carter G. Woodson, sometimes called the Father of Black History, is
best known for organizing the Association for the Study of Negro Life
and History and initiating the celebration of Black History Week in 1926
through the association’s nationwide chapters. What few folklorists realize
is that Woodson relied on folklore studies of Africans across the
diaspora to carry out his lifelong project—the accurate documentation
of African-American historical achievements. Woodson, the historian,
demanded studies of folklore from the living communities that produced
it and required meaningful interpretations of the values and functions
associated with it. Woodson was among the first African-American culture
researchers to advocate, promote, and support holistic folklore study
with roots grounded in Africa. The pioneering work of this important
African-American historian resounds with lessons for modern students
of African and African-American folklore.
Born in 1875 to parents who had been slaves, Woodson struggled to
acquire an education and eventually earned a doctorate in history from
Harvard in 1912, only the second African-American to do so, following
W.E.B. DuBois’s lead. In addition to his efforts for the association, Woodson
worked on several fronts to accomplish his scholarly goal: “the collection
of sociological and historical data on people of African descent.” He established
a publishing house (Associated Publishers) to ensure that scholarly
works on African-American history would see the light of day.
Woodson himself wrote or co-authored at least 15 titles for Associated
Publishers (Logan 1940:315). He created the scholarly Journal of Negro History
in 1916 as a quarterly publication for original research in African-American
history and served as its editor until his death in 1950. Woodson
launched the Negro History Bulletin in 1937 for a general readership, and it
was issued nine times each year. (Logan 1950:347)....
*This volume was delayed in publication and published out of sequence.
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