I unfortunately missed Dr. Ochieng K’Olewe’s guest lecture on Tuesday from a migraine, but from what I heard, it was awesome. However, it leaves me no choice but to write this week’s blog entry about Thursday’s guest lecture by Dr. Johnson-Ross about African-American folk and fairy tales.
I really enjoyed this class because I didn’t previously know much of what we discussed. She started with explaining how the storytelling tradition began under the Baobab tree, a species I only knew existed from hours spent playing Zoo Tycoon as a kid. In Africa, villages were usually located next to one of these trees, and gatherings were held under them.
Griots and griottes were associated with elite families, and they kept the histories of those families through the oral tradition. The most famous West African musicians nowadays come from griot families.
The slave trade brought these traditions to the Americas, and in some cases, the African traditions were allowed to thrive, especially on some South Carolinian plantations where the slave owners couldn’t handle the conditions and left the management to black overseers. I thought it was really interesting when Dr. Johnson-Ross said that in these places now, the way people weave baskets is identical to the methods used in the places in Africa where they came from.
With the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s, black arts flourished. “The Brownie’s Book” was published by the NAACP for two years for “the children of the sun,” and contributors included Langston Hughes as a high schooler. Dr. Johnson-Ross did a good job explaining the context of a time differently than how I’ve learned before, because in my past history classes I’ve only learned about bad things or major events, but not so much about what people were thinking and why. It made the contents of “The Brownie’s Book” more understandable. For example, the story we read made more sense after learning that a lot of black families were split up for economic reasons.
The publication included content for all kinds of audiences, while focusing on the education and edification black children. I especially liked how there were games and stories from other countries in an attempt to promote knowledge of the world.