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Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest


31
Negro Folk Songs and Tales

WEST OF A WAVERING line along the western edge of the central parts of Texas and Oklahoma the Negro is not an important social or cultural element of the Southwest, just as the modern Indian hardly enters into Texas life at all and the Mexican recedes to the east. Negro folk songs and tales of the Southwest have in treatment been blended with those of the South. Dorothy Scarborough's On the Trail of Negro Folk-Songs (1925, OP) derives mainly from Texas, but in making up the body of a Negro song, Miss Scarborough says, "You may find one bone in Texas, one in Virginia and one in Mississippi." Leadbelly, a guitar player equally at home in the penitentiaries of Texas and Louisiana, furnished John A. and Alan Lomax with Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly, New York, 1936 (OP). The Lomax anthologies, American Ballads and Folk Songs, 1934, and Our Singing Country, 1941 (Macmillan, New York) and Carl Sandburg's American Songbag (Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1927) all give the Negro of the Southwest full representation.

Three books of loveliness by R. Emmett Kennedy, Black Cameos (1924), Mellows (1925), and More Mellows (1931) represent Louisiana Negroes. All are OP. An excellent all-American collection is James Weldon Johnson's Book of American Negro Spirituals, Viking, New York, 1940. Bibliographies and lists of other books will be found in The Negro and His Songs (1925, OP) and Negro Workaday Songs, by Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1926, and in American Negro Folk-Songs, by Newman I. White, Cambridge, 1928.

A succinct guide to Negro lore is American Folk Song and Folk Lore: A Regional Bibliography, by Alan Lomax and Sidney R. Crowell, New York, 1942. OP.

Narrowing the field down to Texas, J. Mason Brewer's "Juneteenth," in Tone the Bell Easy, Publication X of the Texas Folklore Society, Austin, 1932, is outstanding as a collection of tales. In volume after volume the Texas Folklore Society has published collections of Negro songs and tales A. W. Eddins, Martha Emmons, Gates Thomas, and H. B. Parks being principal contributors.



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