As I began to peruse collections and studies of black folklore, I found that although considerable work had been done from which I was l earning a great deal, there were some aspects of black folklore with which I was personally familiar (from my childhood in Charles City, Virginia, my college days in Petersburg, and my adult life in Richmond) that I had observed as influence in numerous literary works, particularly on temporary works, that were not included in the material was finding, or were not presented in anything even vaguely resembling the versions I knew and saw represented in much of the fiction and poetry I was studying. It occurred to me then that there must indeed be a wealth of folk materials circulating contemporaneously that was neither treated in these studies nor included in my own knowledge of black folklore, but that I needed to be familiar with in order to adequately treat the subject of wit and humor in black literature. Thus began my collecting of black folklore.

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Copyright © 1979, Indiana University Press. This article first appeared in Journal of the Folklore Institute: 16:1/2 (1979), 120-126.

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