African American Folklore

An Encyclopedia for Students

by Anand Prahlad, Editor


The term "cool" derives from African American religious and aesthetic traditions.

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Cover image for African American Folklore

August 2016


Pages 413
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Race and Ethnicity/African American Studies
  Geography and World Cultures/Folklore

African American folklore dates back 240 years and has had a significant impact on American culture from the slavery period to the modern day. This encyclopedia provides accessible entries on key elements of this long history, including folklore originally derived from African cultures that have survived here and those that originated in the United States.

Inspired by the author's passion for African American culture and vernacular traditions, African American Folklore: An Encyclopedia for Students thoroughly addresses key elements and motifs in black American folklore—especially those that have influenced American culture. With its alphabetically organized entries that cover a wide range of subjects from the word "conjure" to the dance style of "twerking," this book provides readers with a deeper comprehension of American culture through a greater understanding of the contributions of African American culture and black folk traditions.

This book will be useful to general readers as well as students or researchers whose interests include African American culture and folklore or American culture. It offers insight into the histories of African American folklore motifs, their importance within African American groups, and their relevance to the evolution of American culture. The work also provides original materials, such as excepts from folktales and folksongs, and a comprehensive compilation of sources for further research that includes bibliographical citations as well as lists of websites and cultural centers.


  • Offers the most comprehensive compilation of resources on African American folklore, in the forms of bibliographical citations, lists of websites, and lists of cultural centers
  • Demonstrates the importance of black folklore to the development of American culture
  • Contains a unique collection of entries on black folk traditions
  • Documents the historical, aesthetic influence of African culture on African American folklore
Author Info

Anand Prahlad, PhD, is professor in the English department at the University of Missouri in Columbia. His published works include ABC-CLIO's The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore as well as Reggae Wisdom: Proverbs in Reggae Music; African-American Proverbs in Context; and As Good as Mango, a collection of poems. Prahlad received his doctorate in folklore and mythology from the University of California, Los Angeles.



"Libraries which already own Prahlad’s three-volume Greenwood Encyclopedia of African-American Folklore should seriously consider acquiring this single volume as an update to that set, considering the wealth of information here. A welcome addition to all folklore collections, recommended for all undergraduate and public libraries."—ARBA

"The work provides a significant review of African American folklore and a rich and diverse body of materials that will appeal to researchers and general readers. A solid resource for those seeking basic content on the topic, including middle and high school students writing reports."—Library Journal

"Prahlad sets out to have an encyclopedia that celebrates the spirit of African Americans without shying away from the history that shaped the culture. In this, he can be proud."—Booklist

"[T]he encyclopedia is certainly a wonderful resource for students but is also for scholars and specialists. Summing Up: Recommended. All libraries. All levels."—Choice

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