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Black Poetry and Black Folk Narratives

Dr. James Oliver Richardson

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Perhaps the greatest human understanding lies within the hearts and souls of Black people. The old Negro folk songs entered the African American church and became prayer songs and sorrow songs that still trouble our souls. These songs were spirituals groans and mournful meanings that are ever present in the old Negro spirituals; they were narratives and expressions of hope and of tragedy. The songs we hear were a prophecy of pride and self-respect. Through all of the unhappiness of the sorrow songs, there breathes a hope and a faith in the final justice of things. The minor cadences of despair change often to victory and calm confidence. Sometimes it is faith in life, sometimes a faith in death, and sometimes reassurance of boundless justice in some unknown world beyond. But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometime, somewhere, all men will be judge by their souls and not by the color of their skins. Perhaps, in America, many Black men cannot endure their life-world of Blackness. Nevertheless, there will come a time when individuals will be required to accept full accountability for their cruelty, hypocrisy, exploitation, and for empowering a reality of Whiteness. It will be a time when secrets of the hearts will be known.

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