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I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture
     

I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture

by Patricia A. Turner
 

This book divides into two basic parts. In Chapters 1 and 2 I discuss historical examples of "rumor" discourse and suggest whey many blacks have--for good reason--channeled beliefs about race relations into familiar formulae, ones developed as early as the time of the first contact between sub-Saharan Africans and European white. Then in Chapters 3-7 it

Overview


This book divides into two basic parts. In Chapters 1 and 2 I discuss historical examples of "rumor" discourse and suggest whey many blacks have--for good reason--channeled beliefs about race relations into familiar formulae, ones developed as early as the time of the first contact between sub-Saharan Africans and European white. Then in Chapters 3-7 it explores the continuation of these issues in late-twentieth-century African-American rumors and contemporary legends, using examples collected in the field. Because Turner was able to monitor these contemporary legends as they unfolded and played themselves out, rigorous analysis was possible.
 
What follows, then, is an examination of the themes common to these contemporary items and related historical ones, and an explanation for their persistence. Concerns about conspiracy, contamination, cannibalism, and castration--perceived threats to individual black bodies, which are then translated into animosity toward the race as a whole--run through nearly four hundred years of black contemporary legend material and prove remarkable tenacious. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In an intriguing exploration of black folklore, Turner examines contemporary legends--like Ku Klux Klan ownership of a now defunct clothing firm--common in the black community. The author, who teaches African-American and African Studies at UC Davis, finds the roots of folk notions about racial difference in the contact between European explorers and black Africans, and in white attempts to control black bodies from slavery days through 20th-century riots. She offers close analysis of several persistent conspiracy rumors: black belief that white-owned firms directed at black customers, e.g., Church's Fried Chicken, are run by the KKK; that sneaker-maker Reebok is owned by South Africa; that AIDS and crack are part of a white plot to suppress blacks. Turner insightfully observes that ``products or places having strong symbolic potency for African-Americans''--some soul food is an example--can inspire folk speculation. She argues that most rumors are based on ``readings or misreadings'' of real oppression of blacks, and that combatting such rumors requires first addressing racial intolerance and inequality. However, Turner downplays the responsibility of the black community to support accurate reporting and education efforts. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520081857
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
09/28/1993
Pages:
260
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.03(d)

Meet the Author


Patricia A. Turner is Professor of African-American and African Studies at the University of California at Davis and the author of Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture (1994).

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