News Article

African American Folktales with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Maria Tatar

January 12, 2018

On Wednesday, January 10, the National Archives hosted a panel discussion moderated by National Archives Foundation Board Chair Emeritus A’Lelia Bundles with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar who discussed their book, The Annotated African American Folktales.

In what could only be described as an enchanting evening of storytelling, Gates and Tatar reinforced the importance and complexities that these stories exude and how they deserve to be recognized among the most important pieces of not only African American literature, but American literature in general.

The illustrated book celebrates nearly 170 stories across several continents and is a kaleidoscopic study of the African American folklore tradition. It presents fairy tales from Africa, trickster tales, ballads of heroes, black origin stories, and Caribbean and Latin American folktales.

The capacity audience was entertained with excerpts from such classics as “Negro Folk Tales from the South,” by  Arthur Huff Fauset.  A robust discussion revealed how these folktales have had a history of being hijacked and misappropriated by others, often creating cartoonesque characters drawn from African American lore, diluting their relevance, and reinforcing racial stereotypes.

The book, The Annotated African American Folktales is one of the most comprehensive collections of African American folktales ever published in American literary history can be found at the National Foundation Store or call 202.357.5271.