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I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Rumor in African-American Culture

Patricia A. Turner (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 260 pages
ISBN: 9780520089365
August 1994
$30.95, £22.95
This book divides into two basic parts. In Chapters 1 and 2 I discuss historical examples of "rumor" discourse and suggest whey many blacks have--for good reason--channeled beliefs about race relations into familiar formulae, ones developed as early as the time of the first contact between sub-Saharan Africans and European white. Then in Chapters 3-7 it explores the continuation of these issues in late-twentieth-century African-American rumors and contemporary legends, using examples collected in the field. Because Turner was able to monitor these contemporary legends as they unfolded and played themselves out, rigorous analysis was possible. What follows, then, is an examination of the themes common to these contemporary items and related historical ones, and an explanation for their persistence. Concerns about conspiracy, contamination, cannibalism, and castration--perceived threats to individual black bodies, which are then translated into animosity toward the race as a whole--run through nearly four hundred years of black contemporary legend material and prove remarkable tenacious. 
Patricia A. Turner is Professor of African-American and African Studies at the University of California at Davis and the author of Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture (1994).
"A feast for those interested in historical and modern black folklore and for both supporters and critics of conspiracy theory."--William H. Banks, Jr., Quarterly Black Review of Books "A compelling read. . . . Through sleuth-like research of rumor and myth in African-American culture, Turner uncovers perhaps the biggest conspiracy of all: centuries of systematic racism in the United States. She traces the history of black folklore in this country from the moment the first slave ships arrived to the present day, repeatedly providing powerful evidence that the African-American fear of white America is not simply unfounded cultural paranoia."--Erik Himmelsback, L.A. Reader Review "Entertaining and absorbing. . . . Information that blacks and whites have about one another is largely based upon rumors. Turner's monumental work traces the origins of rumors that have often fomented tragedies in race relations since the early encounters between Europeans and Africans."--Ishmael Reed, author of Japanese by Spring "Fascinating. . . . Turner explores the origins of rumors, how they spread and their sometimes devastating effect. . . as she examines everything from Atlanta child murders to Liz Claiborne's designer clothes, Kool and Marlboro cigarets, Reebok footwear and Troop sportswear."--Pat Holt, San Francisco Chronicle "Illuminating. . . . Although [Turner] deals primarily with some seemingly preposterous rumors circulating amont blacks in the United States, her book demonstrates how and exemplary case study of folklore can reveal the positive side of these seemingly damaging rumors. Moreover, her work opens up new perspectives on black culture."--Jack Zipes, New York Times Book Review "A necessary addition to studies of African-American culture, with insights for all races into the effects of oppression and misunderstanding."--Renee Graham, Boston Globe

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