Black Short Fiction and Folklore | Alexander Street
Black Short Fiction and Folklore

Black Short Fiction and Folklore

Black Short Fiction and Folklore brings together 82,000 pages and more than 11,000 works of short fiction produced by writers from Africa and the African Diaspora from the earliest times to the present. The materials have been compiled from early literary magazines, archives, and the personal collections of the authors. Some 30 percent of the collection is fugitive or ephemeral, or has never been published before.

The project unifies an astounding variety of traditions ranging from early African oral traditions to today’s hip-hop. It covers fables, parables, ballads, folk-tales, short story cycles, and novellas—all the writings included have fewer than 10,000 words. The presentation of this material in a single, cohesive, searchable form—together with extensive indexing—enables scholars to study the writings in a wholly new way.

The collection provides unparalleled avenues of research for students and scholars of literature at all levels. Users can trace the evolution of the genre from its beginnings through to the present, with a comprehensive resource. For instance, with one search, users can find numerous examples of literary devices that are native to black short fiction, such as trickster tales—a type of folktale in which animals exhibit human speech and behaviors.

The relevance of the collection extends well beyond literature:

  • Fables and folktales provide unique insights into a culture’s history and memories. Social anthropologists and psychologists will find this collection to be rich in myth and societal customs. The extensive indexing even makes it possible to see how certain parables evolve over time and to compare New World fables with those told in Africa today.
  • Ideas expressed here often are not found in mainstream publications; getting novels published through traditional publishing channels was often impossible for blacks. But through short stories, these writers could express themselves quickly and distribute their works effectively through literary journals and other alternative forms.
  • Historians will find the collection to be rich in political discourse, social commentary, and polemic.

North American coverage

The North American coverage in the collection begins with Southern blacks such as William Wells Brown, Pauline Hopkins, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and Frances W. Harper, and extends to cover Charles Waddell Chesnutt. Many of Chesnutt's stories incorporated characteristics of the American local color movement, and several were classified regionally as plantation literature.

Through characterization, theme, and incident black writers of the South repudiated the romantic image of the plantation. Chesnutt's Uncle Julius, for instance, contradicted the white portrayal of the faithful black servant, epitomized by Page's Sam and Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus. The idyllic portrait of plantation life created by white writers was in stark contrast to the image Chesnutt and other blacks showed of a system infested with greed, inhumanity, deception, and cruelty. 

—Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

Coverage moves into the Harlem Renaissance and goes up to our days. Key authors include Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson, Arna Bontemps, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Jessie Fauset, Wallace Thurman, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Chester Himes, Rita Dove, John Edgar Wideman, Wanda Coleman, and Walter Mosley, among others.African Coverage

The database includes a rich array of materials from English-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The following authors are included: Andrew Salkey, Lorna Goodison, Olive Senior, Ian MacDonald, Claude McKay, A.J. Seymour, Sembene Ousmane, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Richard Rive,and Grace Ogot.

Bibliographies and advisors

  • Post Colonial African Writers. Ed. Pushpa Naidu Parekh & Siga Fatima Jagne. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998
  • The Afro-American Short Story. Ed. Preston Yancy. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986
  • Twentieth-century Caribbean and Black African Writers. First series. Ed. Bernth Lindfors & Reinhard Sander. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992
  • Twentieth-century Caribbean and Black African Writers. Second series. Ed. Bernth Lindfors & Reinhard Sander. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1993
  • Twentieth-century Caribbean and Black African Writers. Third series. Ed. Bernth Lindfors & Reinhard Sander. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1996
  • Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955. Ed. Trudier Harris. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1988
  • African American Literature: an Overview and Bibliography. Ed. Paul Q. Tilden. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2003
  • A Black Canadian Bibliography. Ed. Flora Francis. Ottawa: Pan-African Publications, 2000
  • A Century of Fiction by American Negroes, 1853-1952; A Descriptive Bibliography. Philadelphia: Albert Saifer Publisher, 1969
  • The Afro-American Short Story. Ed. Preston Yancy. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986
  • Afro American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance. Ed. Trudier Harris. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1986
  • Afro American Writers From the Harlem Renaissance to 1940. Ed. Trudier Harris. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1987
  • Selected Black American, African and Caribbean Authors: A Bio-Bibliography. Ed. James Page & Jae Min Roh. Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1985
  • African American Writers: A Dictionary. Ed. Shari Dorantes Hatch & Michael Strickland. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000

Publication details

Black Short Fiction and Folklore is available on the Web, either by annual subscription or through one-time purchase of perpetual rights. In addition to the full text of 11,700 works, it contains a rich archive of related ephemera, including sample readings by authors.


Best Reference Database of 2004 Winner!

Alexander Street Press has assembled an impressive resource for studying black short fiction from its beginnings to the present. . . Overall, the database's depth and breadth make it an invaluable resource. Summing Up: Highly recommended.