Shirley Moody Turner – African American Educator, Writer and Folklorist

Published By:
Lamont Jack Pearley

I have the honor to speak with Shirley Moody Turner, an associate professor of English and African American Studies. She is the author of Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation, co-editor of Contemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, and has recently signed on as editor of volume VII (focusing on the years 1900-1910) for the Cambridge University Press multi-volume project, African American Literature in Transition. Along with all her works, we will be discussing her latest project The Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project!

Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation
Shirley Moody-Turner analyzes this output, along with the contributions of a disparate group of African American authors and scholars. She explores how black authors and folklorists were active participants-rather than passive observers- in conversations about the politics of representing black folklore. Examining literary texts, folklore documents, cultural performances, legal discourse, and political rhetoric, Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation demonstrates how folklore studies became a battleground across which issues of racial identity and difference were asserted and debated at the turn of the twentieth century. The study is framed by two questions of historical and continuing import. What role have representations of black folklore played in constructing racial identity? And, how have those ideas impacted the way African Americans think about and creatively engage black traditions?

Moody-Turner renders established historical facts in a new light and context, taking figures we thought we knew-such as Charles Chesnutt, Anna Julia Cooper, and Paul Laurence Dunbar- and recasting their place in African American intellectual and cultural history.


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