Ebony L Bailey’s article, “(Re)Making the Folk: Black Representation and the Folk in Early American Folklore Studies” is featured by University of Illinois Press’ celebration of Black History Month by sharing their favorite Black history publications.
Bailey’s article details the origins of American folklore studies by examining how “the folk” were repeatedly equated to Black Americans and how folklore was used as a measure of African Americans’ post-emancipation “progress.” Attending to discussions of Black representation in the late nineteenth century, Bailey explores how (1) African Americans were positioned as the folk and (2) how African Americans (re)positioned themselves in discourses of “Blackness” and “folkness.”
Ebony’s article is one of several contributions to the fall 2022 Journal of American Folklore special issue, “African American Expressive Culture, Protest, Imagination, and Dreams of Blackness.” This special issue, edited by Tanya Boucicaut and Lisa Gilman, presents a collection of creative, reflective, and scholarly works written by artists, activists, and scholars. It was conceptualized in the Summer of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic and police brutality against Black people called for renewed reckoning with the foundational structure of white supremacy and broad inequities in the United States.
This unconventional issue centers Blackness and Black people intentionally by transcending the traditional disciplinary boundaries of academia. It includes activists giving firsthand accounts; professors who engage their scholarship through artistry and activism; young students who stand in their truths as they discuss society from their perspectives; conversations with activists; art pieces and photography; and performers expressing themselves through their music, dance, and theater.
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