Born in a Mighty Bad Land: The Violent Man in African by Jerry H. Bryant

By Jerry H. Bryant

The determine of the violent guy within the African American mind's eye has a protracted background. He are available in 19th-century undesirable guy ballads like "Stagolee" and "John Hardy," in addition to within the black convict recitations that prompted "gangsta" rap. "Born in a potent undesirable Land" connects this determine with comparable characters in African American fiction. Many writers McKay and Hurston within the Harlem Renaissance; Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison within the '40s and '50s; Himes within the '50s and '60s observed the "bad nigger" as an archetypal determine within the black mind's eye and psyche. "Blaxploitation" novels within the '70s made him an almost legendary personality. extra lately, Mosley, Wideman, and Morrison have provided him as ghetto thinker and cultural adventurer. in the back of the folklore and fiction, many theories were proposed to provide an explanation for the resource of the undesirable man's intra-racial violence. Jerry H. Bryant explores all of those components in a wide-ranging and illuminating examine some of the most misunderstood figures in African American tradition.

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Extra resources for Born in a Mighty Bad Land: The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction (Blacks in the Diaspora)

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They would ¶oat from job to job as the season dictated and as work became available. This pattern prevailed in the towns as well as the rural communities, powerfully disrupting not only the black labor force but the black family. Moreover, even when there was work, black laborers seemed to prefer the preindustrial rhythms, however un- 22 | “BORN IN A MIGHTY BAD LAND” pro¤table they were. In Appalachian coal mines, “the routine of factory work” characteristic of Northern manufacturing plants contrasted “with the ‘free lance’ nature of coal digging.

26 This stanza not only sounds natural and unforced, it has few rivals in the ballads for expressing the isolation, loneliness, and anonymity that come with crime and the jail time it brings. It explores what James Baldwin half a century later called “the graver questions of the self” in Nobody Knows My Name. Who am I, asks Baldwin, behind the mask of the “Negro” I am forced by whites to wear? Once in the court of the white judge, the “Coon-Can” narrator’s only identity is the mask the judge and his society force him to wear.

Thus, at least for these Journal pieces, Corrothers used a romping, playful style to correct what he takes to be an inaccurate image of blacks. For example, he attacks by implication the black elite, who rejected as shameful and disreputable the oral tradition of slaves and contemporary urban folk, by making Sandy a burlesque “doctor” of folklore. Collecting it is part of the club’s purpose, for “the club members are expected to learn all they can concerning cats, witches, ghosts, quaint Negro sayings and plantation stories and melodies, and to impart them in an original manner at the meetings of the club” (p.

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