A substantial number of Black folktales may be designated as etiological "myths" in that they tend to focus on the world as it evolved and to frequently portray the role of God in explaining why the Negro is, to quote from one tale, "so messed up," why he is black, why he has big, ugly feet and hands, why his hair is kinky, and why he must remain a poor laborer in a rich society. The causes of all of these "inferior" traits of the Negro appear to be certain alleged defects in his character-his tardiness, his ignorance, his disobedience to God, his greed, and/or his laziness. Some of these types of tales which I have recently collected in Virginia not only offer some interesting variants to the well-known versions, but also present some additional material for assessing the meanings, implications, and present directions of this body of Black American folklore.

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Copyright © 1977, University of Florida. This article first appeared in Southern Folklore Quarterly: 40 (1977), 53-64.

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