The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore
[3 volumes]
by Anand Prahlad
December 2005, 1672pp, 7x10
3 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-33035-3
$321, £247, 280€, A440

Roughly 700 alphabetically arranged entries by more than 100 contributors overview all aspects of African American folklore, including folktales, music, foodways, spiritual beliefs, and art.

African American culture draws upon a rich body of traditions from Africa, Latin America, and the South, and folklore is fundamental to the African American heritage. The first work of its kind, this definitive encyclopedia comprehensively overviews African American folklore. Included are roughly 700 alphabetically arranged entries by more than 100 expert contributors on such topics as folktales, music, art, foodways, spiritual beliefs, proverbs, and many other subjects. Entries cite works for further reading, and the encyclopedia concludes with a bibliography of major works.

African American folklore has played a dominant role in shaping the spirit and soul of the Americas. African American folk traditions are a vital part of contemporary society and continue to shape art, music, film, literature, and religion. Because folklore is more than just a body of tales and instead encompasses all of traditional culture, it is central to African American daily life. The first work of its kind, this authoritative encyclopedia comprehensively overviews African American folklore. While the encyclopedia gives special attention to music, art, folktales, spiritual beliefs, foodways, proverbs, and other topics central to African American folklore, it also discusses the Caribbean and African roots of traditional African American culture.

Features: ; Draws upon the work of more than 100 expert contributors. ; Includes roughly 700 alphabetically arranged entries. ; Covers music, art, folktales, spiritual beliefs, foodways, proverbs, customs, traditions, and other topics. ; Entries cite works for further reading. ; Includes an alphabetical list of entries. ; Provides a list of entries grouped in topical categories. ; Lists archives and research centers. ; Offers convenient access through an extensive index. ; Entries are fully cross-referenced. ; Presents a selected, general bibliography of major works on African American folklore. ; Includes entries on the Caribbean and African roots of African American folklore. ; Overviews the presence of African American folklore in contemporary popular culture. ; Contains a generous selection of illustrations of all types of African American folklore.

Benefits: ; Helps students understand the heart of African American culture. ; Provides an essential context for African American history, literature, music, and art. ; Promotes respect for cultural diversity. ; Celebrates our nation’s African American heritage. ; Relates African American culture to its Caribbean and African influences. ; Serves as a model for student writing. ; Develops research skills by directing students to additional resources. ; Helps students learn about African American history through popular culture.

Students researching any aspect of the African American experience will find this encyclopedia to be a valuable resource, as will their teachers. And because African American life is central to American society, anyone interested in American Studies will treasure this reference work.


The New York Public Library Best of Reference Award Storytelling World Award 200, January 1, 2005


"This encyclopedia features more than 700 alphabetically organized essays by more than 140 scholars. Editor Prahlad, an expert on African American proverbs in context, authors many of the entries. The set also features a listing of entries, a thematic Guide to Related Topics (repeated in each volume), and a preface and introduction by the editor. Each signed entry is followed by suggestions for further reading that are often very expansive and sometimes contain Internet resources....The content goes far beyond folklore, including, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Huey P. Newton (but not Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King), and many entries on the Caribbean and much of South America (and a little on Africa). The entries run the gamut from Zoot Suits to Aerosol Art and from Folktales to Fiction. Both white and black scholars, e.g., Melville Herskovits and Zora Neale Hurston, are included. Subjects such as the blues, jazz, rap, and hip-hop occur both as entries and within items, as do religions, culinary arts, and basket weaving. These examples only begin to demonstrate the diversity of the three volumes. The relatively low price makes this encyclopedia a good possibility for historically black colleges. All libraries should consider it. Recommended. Libraries supporting lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers."—Choice, June 1, 2006

"[T]his comprehensive work focuses on music, art, folktales, proverbs, spiritual beliefs, and many other topics"—Library Journal African American Issues, November 1, 2005

"Covering a wealth of topics in areas that include conversational genres, language, dance, festivals, events, folklore scholars and collectors, foods, material culture, music, quilting, and religion the over 700 entries of this reference demonstrate the wide impact of African American folklore throughout American culture. Many entries are devoted to countries and regions, particularly in Africa and parts of Central and South America, describing genres found there and their areas of influence. Characters in Black folklore are well represented in separate entries, and many entries are biographies. Cross references are incorporated in bold type within the text. Each entry is signed and includes a list of further reading. Many inset boxes are included, containing quotes gathered from oral history and literature. This fascinating and thought-provoking resource is suitable for high school and undergraduate students as well as the general reader."—Art Book News Annual, January 1, 2007

"Following on from....The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature, we have another excellently produced work....This encyclopedia, compiled by over a hundred contributors and advisors, is a major work on its subject and will be invaluable stock for North American Libraries, and others with an interest in North American culture."—Reference Reviews, January 1, 2007

"This is the first resource of its kind....[A]nand Prahlad, editor, professor of English with a doctorate in Folklore and Mythology, has put together a great, easy-to-use, cross-referenced resource that contains over 700 entries, most of which are extensive and presented within historical and cultural contexts."—Journal of Folklore Research, April 1, 2007

"Over 700 essays in three volumes update the perception of folklore to include contemporary personalities, such as Ice Cube, and define concepts, such as the difference between assimiliation and appropriation....In this exhaustive set that goes beyond the traditional approach to folklore, the reader will find a scope that includes a chart comparing Big Band/Swing to Bebop; segregation and the impact of folklore; heroic and trickster motifs in sports; aerosol art; and contributions from Caribbean cultures. This set should be in every high school library. Highly Recommended."—Library Media Connection, December 1, 2006

"From Abakwa to Zydeco, this nicely packaged encyclopedia provides an energized updating of the history of African-American folklore, moving beyond traditional ideas of this field as a collection of antebellum tales involving conjure and similar superstitions passed down by slaves. While The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore does not eschew this tadition--for it contains several entries on this important strand of black folk inheritance--it adds considerable diversity into the mix by interpreting folklore as a broader nexus of cultural heritage and exchange....The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore is an impressive achievement and the editor should be commended for this herculean effort."—MultiCultural Review, September 1, 2006

"The set represents a major contribution and overview of the folklore of the African American....[s]ignificant asset to any high school library African American collection."—Catholic Library World, September 1, 2006

"[T]he editors of this unique reference tool draw upon a variety of traditions to richly illustrate African American folk culture. ...Coverage is not limited to practices that are solely African in origin, but extends to the syncretism apparent in African American cultures throughout the Americas. Particular emphasis is placed on the American South, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. All-in-all, more than 140 scholars examine nearly 700 topics in African American folklore, from aerosol art and barbecue to zombies and zydeco music. Each article provides numerous suggestions for further reading, and a general resource guide lists folk life programs, museums, archives, journals, magazines and Web sites, as well as selected books and scholarly articles. This groundbreaking, scholarly encyclopedia is highly recommended for school, public and academic libraries."—Lawrence Looks At Books, August 1, 2006

"[A]ny college-level or public library holding strong in ethnic studies in general and Afro-American history in particular should have it....Topical category groupings bring these diverse ideas together in an easily-accessed reference cross-referenced for maximum impact."—The Midwest Book Review - California Bookwatch, April 1, 2006

"Sources on African American folklore abound. Until now, however, there has been no single source that covers most aspects of the discipline. Editor Prahlad gathered the work of an impressive cast of 140-plus international scholars and researchers for this three-volume compendium of more than 700 essays....Recommended for secondary school, public, and academic libraries."—Library Journal, April 1, 2006

"The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore provides a reference for students and teachers researching any aspect of the African American experience. The three volume set gives special attention to music, art, folktales, spiritual beliefs, foodways, proverbs, ans other topics central to African American folklore, and discusses the Caribbean and African roots of traditional African American culture."—Library Media Connection, March 1, 2006

"Intended for 'students, scholars, writers, and the general public,' these volumes cover African American folk traditions in the Caribbean and North, South, and Latin America. The multidisciplinary nature of folklore studies is reflected in the list of 140 or so primarily academic contributors, whose areas of expertise include art, literature, anthropology, religion, and more....Some 700 alphabetically arranged entries, varying in length from around half a page to 10 pages, make fascinating reading on topics as diverse as samba, the Sea Islands, sermons, Tupac Shakur, Stagolee, and the steel pan drum....This 'first comprehensive general reference work' on African American Folklore is highly recommended for academic and public libraries."—Booklist, Starred Review, February 1, 2006
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