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'Annotated African American Folktales' Reclaims Stories Passed Down From Slavery

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Browsing through a weighty new anthology called The Annotated African-American Folk Tales is a journey across space and time. In one chapter called "Defiance and Desire," there's a section devoted to flying Africans, where there's a lyric that I was familiar with from a song Paul Robeson recorded many years ago — "All God's Chillun Got Wings." There were also folktales told by slaves of newly arrived Africans — who, unlike the slaves, had not yet lost the ability to fly; stories of Africans who escaped slavery by flying back to Africa. The anthology is edited by two Harvard professors: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar. "[These folktales] have that magical quality," Tatar says. "They give us mysteries wrapped in enigmas inside riddles. We have to respond to them. We have to figure them out." Interview Highlights On the importance of flying Africans in folktales Gates: The relationship between flying, freedom, and death is one of the curious things about the African-American oral

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