Drums and Shadows (manuscript)

Drums and Shadows (manuscript)

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Title: Drums and Shadows (manuscript)
Dates: 1940
Quantity: 0.1 Linear Foot (1 volume housed with minor collections MS 284 and MS 285)
Coll. Number: ms285(m).TEMP

Biographical/Historical Note

"This collection of oral folklore from coastal Georgia was assembled during the 1930s as part of a WPA writers' program, under the supervision of Mary Granger. The accounts in this book, framed by colorful descriptions of the rural locales where they were collected, were principally from elderly African-Americans, some of them centarians. Most had been slaves. In some cases they had known first generation slaves who had been born in Africa.

This book focuses on a set of beliefs and magical practices (some of which are today known as 'Hoodoo'), including root doctoring, the existence of spirits, talismans, lucky and unlucky acts and omens and more. The interviewer also investigates the use of drums and dancing during celebrations, funeral and baptism rituals, food taboos, and other aspects of folklore and ethnology. This study dispels any lingering doubt that these beliefs are derived directly from Africa--it exhaustively cross-references the narratives with an appendix of quotes from African ethnographers, folklorists and explorers.

Do not be put off by the use of phonetic dialect spelling. This is not being used here to belittle the speakers or cast them as ignorant. Rather, this book is scrupulously non-judgmental. This is simply how oral accounts were transcribed before there were portable tape recorders or camcorders. It takes a bit of work, but after a few pages, these potent and long-dead voices come to life."

--John Bruno Hare, March 23, 2007 from http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/das/index.htm

Scope and Content Note

This volume represents a manuscript version of a work by the Savannah Unit of the Georgia Writers' Project under the Works Progress Administration and supervised by Mary Granger, published in 1940 by the University of Georgia Press in Athens. The work is a series of narratives based on interviews with ex-slaves living along the Georgia coast. It was illustrated by Muriel and Malcolm Bell and has a forward by Guy B. Johnson.

The manuscript seeks to explore the lifeways and culture of African Americans in Georgia's coastal areas in an anthropological context. It contains many interviews with African American individuals with their answers quoted in dialect, and focuses in some degree on religious and/or superstitious beliefs and customs. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia entry, Drums and Shadows, "recorded for posterity examples of folklore, speech, naming patterns, and material culture that have since disappeared."

Of particular interest is an index to West African culture created by Mary Granger, which serves as an appendix to the manuscript and includes citations to possible parallels between those beliefs and practices and those of the African American residents of Georgia's coastal regions.

Index Terms

Slave narratives--Georgia--Athens.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation note

Drums and Shadows (manuscript), MS 285. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing