"Imagine the situations in which these speech acts occur. Recall a front stoop, juke joint, funeral, wedding, barbershop, kitchen: the music, noise, communal energy, and release. Dream. Participate the way you do when you allow a song to transport you, all kinds of songs, from hip-hop rap to Bach to Monk, each bearing its different history of sounds and silences." -- From the Foreword by John Edgar Wideman African-American folklore was Zora Neale Hurston's first love. Collected in the late 1920s, Every Tongue Got to Confess is the third volume of folk-tales from the celebrated author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is published here for the first time. These hilarious, bittersweet, often saucy folk-tales -- some of which date back to the Civil War -- provide a fascinating, verdant slice of African-American life in the rural South at the turn of the twentieth century. Arranged according to subject -- from God Tales, Preacher Tales, and Devil Tales to Heaven Tales, White-Folk Tales, and Mistaken Identity Tales -- they reveal attitudes about slavery, faith, race relations, family, and romance that have been passed on for generations. They capture the heart and soul of the vital, independent, and creative community that so inspired Zora Neale Hurston. In the foreword, author John Edgar Wideman discusses the impact of Hurston's pioneering effort to preserve the African-American oral tradition and shows readers how to read these folk tales in the historical and literary context that has -- and has not -- changed over the years. And in the introduction, Hurston scholar Carla Kaplan explains how these folk-tales were collected, lost, and found, and examines their profound significance today. In Every Tongue Got to Confess, Zora Neale Hurston records, with uncanny precision, the voices of ordinary people and pays tribute to the richness of Black vernacular -- its crisp self-awareness, singular wit, and improvisational wordplay. These folk-tales reflect the joys and sorrows of the African-American experience, celebrate the redemptive power of storytelling, and showcase the continuous presence in America of an Africanized language that flourishes to this day.
Zora Neale Hurston was born in 1901 in Eatonville, Fla. She left home at the age of 17, finished high school in Baltimore, and went on to study at Howard University, Barnard College, and Columbia University before becoming one of the most prolific writers in the Harlem Renaissance. Her works included novels, essays, plays, and studies in folklore and anthropology. Her most productive years were the 1930s and early 1940s. It was during those years that she wrote her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road, worked with the Federal Writers Project in Florida, received a Guggenheim fellowship, and wrote four novels. She is most remembered for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She died penniless and in obscurity in 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973, her grave was rediscovered and marked and her novels and autobiography have since been reprinted.
Writer John Edgar Wideman was born in Washington, D. C., on June 14, 1941. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, studied at Oxford University, and was the second African American to become a Rhodes Scholar. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and eventually founded and chaired the African American studies department. He also taught at the University of Wyoming and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wideman is the author of more than a dozen books. Sent for You Yesterday won a PEN/Faulkner Award in 1984, and Philadelphia Fire received one a decade later. Fatheralong was a finalist for the National Book Award (1994) and Brothers and Keepers was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (1995).