Interview w/ Erik Vance - Author of Suggestible You, More EM Drive Madness, Hot Arctic Weather, Invasion of Earth, Manly Salt Frogs?, Split-Brained Ducks, Combing Your Hair, Sperm Health Benefits, Turkey!!!, And Much More!!!
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- Roger Abrahams, folklorist who studied African American language, dies
By William Grimes - Saturday Jul 1, 2017
Roger Abrahams, folklorist who studied African American language, diesRoger Abrahams, one of the first folklorists to study the language and performance styles of black Americans as reflected in songs, proverbs and riddles both old and new, died June 20 in Sunnyvale.Mr. Abrahams (pronounced Abrams) cast his net wide, exploring Anglo-American folk songs, jump-rope rhymes and counting rhymes, but devoted most of his scholarly energies to the African diaspora in the Caribbean and the United States.Earlier folklorists had focused on black religious expression, the language of the church and pulpit.The Emergence of African American Culture in the Plantation South (1992), Mr. Abrahams turned back the clock to study the corn-shucking ceremony, a ritual with songs and chants that he reconstructed through newspaper accounts, travelers tales and diaries as a means of understanding the social dynamics of plantation society.Historian Wilson Moses, reviewing the book in the Historian, called Mr. Abrahams “probably the most celebrated living preservationist of African American secular oral traditions.”John Szwed, Mr. Abrahams’ collaborator on “Discovering Afro-America” (1975) and the essay collection Blues for New Orleans:After earning a master’s degree in literature and folklore from Columbia University in 1959, Mr. Abrahams returned to the University of Pennsylvania, where, under the direction of Leach, was awarded a doctorate in literature and folklore in 1961.To better understand the African roots of African American folk practices and verbal styles, Mr. Abrahams did extensive field research in the Caribbean, beginning with a week on St. Kitts and Nevis in 1962.With ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, he recorded sea chanteys and the songs performed at tea meetings, a combination variety show and church fundraiser.Mr. Abrahams pursued his interest in black speech and street culture in the United States in several works that, like “Deep Down in the Jungle,” rejected the current argument that black Americans suffered not only from poverty but from a deficient culture.Mr. Abrahams taught for many years in the English department of the University of Texas in Austin, where he also served as the director of the African and Afro-American Research Institute.