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African American Studies
AFAM 178
Robert Thompson

SWEAT- Zora Neale Hurston  Terms o Specify= nosy? Gossip? Unclear. o Read someone= stolen from fortune-tellers, means to give someone his or her past o “got her foot up on somebody”= if you got enough ammunition, go to your enemy’s house, put one of your feet on his steps and play in the family. Aka play the dozens. Low-rate your enemy’s ancestors and him, from the past all the way to the future o “you sho is crazy”= you’re witty o “beat/spank/hit the box”= play some music! Aka the drums o jivin’= fake it ‘til you make it  Zora Neale Hurston’s Research o She considers a lot of them primitive minds, quick to sunshine and anger o Sometimes killings aren’t personal; if a person wants that reputation, they’ll do it solely for the reputation o Poets of the swinging blade= workers at saw-mills, railroads, etc. by day, artists by night  Can be poets, singers, dancers  Swinging blade is about their jobs but also about their quick temper and willingness to pull out a switchblade in a fight(I think)  Polk County is kind of lawless and ruthless o Incorporation of art into everyday work to make it less miserable (according to Thompson, not quite the book)  Characteristics of negro expression o Drama  Imbedded in pictures instead of language  Dependent on other acts  Full of similes and metaphors  The metaphor is primitive and easier to illustrate than describe  Ever phase of negro life is highly dramatized  No little moment passes unadorned  Super descriptive  It is not just a chair, it is a sitting-chair, a cook-pot  Seen in interactions between black men on the corner talking about killing each other  Seen when a black girl walks past a corner boy, signifying how sexy she is o Will to adorn  2nd most important characteristic  probably not up to white standards but it satisfies the soul  contributions to language, especially in the South 1. metaphor and simile a. ex: syndicating- gossiping b. ex: cloakers- deceivers 2. double descriptive a. ex: lady-people b. ex: low-down c. ex: top superior 3. verbal nouns o ex: funeralize o ex: she won’t take a listen  white people don’t adorn enough! o Angularity  Also found in African sculptures, dances and doctrines  Dances are angular, unlike the Western dances of ballet, for example  It is all about making a statement o Asymmetry  Found in all forms of art  Why white people can’t get African rhythms  Paradoxical that there is asymmetry and rhythm but it works because it is done in segments  Often African “patterns” lack western symmetry o Dancing  Always gives the impression of more than it is  Ex: you may see some ferocious dancing but you are left thinking there is even more to it  Compelling insinuation  White dancers aim to fully express themselves; black dancers are restrained but succeed in gripping the beholder by forcing him to finish the action the performer suggests  Blacks got the harder task & are therefore the better artists o Negro folklore  Not a thing of the past; constantly progressing with the times  Culture heroes (in order of strength)  John Jack is the greatest cultural hero of the south  The devil can’t beat Jack; can outsmart everyone else, even God  Peter the apostle  Rabbit, bear, lion, buzzard, fox= culture heroes of the animal world  Examples of Folkore and the Modern culture hero  Why de porpoise’s tail is on crosswise  Rockefeller and Ford o Good example of how folklore is not just historic o Originality  Meaning modification of ideas  Black people are just as original as Shakespeare (even he borrowed material)  They often adapt white people stuff for their own use, and then their adaptations get readapted by whites- cycle  Imitation  Doesn’t mean lack of originality  Black people don’t mimic from a sense of inferiority o Mimic for the <3 of it, not because they want to feel/be who they are mimicking o Few lavishly mimic  Dances often mimic animals  Absence of the concept of privacy  Communal life, can’t keep secrets  Comes from no privacy in African villages  Connection to sex as an art among blacks..? o Just like fighting is an art o Black people are more open about both  White men are sucky lovers and sucky fighters!!  The Jook  Word for a negro pleasure house  Meanings: bawdy house; house set apart on public works where they dance, drink and gamble.  Music was provided by boxes- aka guitars o First play was picking (carrying melody by dexterous finger work) and second was framing (playing chords). Sometimes a third was added to complete the set  Pianos soon took
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