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By Shirley Moody-Turner

"Before the leading edge paintings of Zora Neale Hurston, folklorists from the Hampton Institute accrued, studied, and wrote approximately African American folklore. Like Hurston, those folklorists labored inside of but in addition past the boundaries of white mainstream associations. they generally known as into query the which means of the very folklore initiatives during which they have been engaged. Shirley Moddy-Turner analyzes this output, besides the  Read more...

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36 Folklore and the Birth of Jim Crow The print for Oliver Scott’s “Refined Negro Minstrels” (see Fig. 3) depicts the medley of stereotypes that had come to dominate the minstrel shows and capture the public imagination. Jim Crow, Zip Coon, and the enduring and infamous Grinning Darkie of the old plantation South ousted the Yankee and the backwoodsman from national prominence. In the Scott print, the dandy poses in a flashy yellow coat, sporting pencil-thin legs and holding a cane. A Topsy-like character dances around a figure whose spectacles mark him as a caricature of the black intellectual.

As for the folkloric materials collected, their significance was as remnants of the past surviving in the present and used to interpret and illuminate the past. In other words, folklore comprised the historical record that could show how materials (songs, tales, customs) were diffused, circulated and adapted among cultures. In the discussion that follows, I show how Newell’s methodological, theoretical, and historicallybased orientations toward folklore exerted and reflected a powerful, though not uncontested, force in influencing late-nineteenth-century approaches to the study of folklore and culture.

Reportedly saw a crippled and deformed black hostler or stable groom singing and performing a striking but peculiar dance as he went about his work. The actor, recognizing the potential appeal of the song— 30 Folklore and the Birth of Jim Crow “Weel about and turn about, and do jis so. 38 While the veracity of the encounter remains questionable, the legend has been continually reproduced because it provides a convenient explanation for the threatening appearance of ostensibly black folk material on the local and national stage.

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