America, with its mixture of people from all over the world, is very unique. The accomplishments and creativity of just one group of people, African-Americans, is showcased in this treasury. Their stories will take you on a journey into the past and then bring you up to the present day.
Some people say it is not important to read old stories. But there is so much to learn from these tales, some of which have been passes along for hundreds of years. They bring so much enjoyment that they should not be forgotten.
There is no way to determine exactly how old certain folktales and folk songs are, or even to know who created them. The slaves who were brought to America through the mid-1800s did not have many possessions, but they brought with them a rich oral tradition. This tradition has stirred the soul of America because it comes from the heart.
The history of African-Americans has been passed along in their stories, songs, and poems. This history describes the lives of people who enjoyed life as much as they could but also suffered through many hardships and struggles. Despite the difficult times they endured, most were able to display amazing courage, grace, and dignity. Many of the stories contained in this treasury convey the hopes and dreams of several generations of African-Americans.
People all over the world have heard and read the Brer Rabbit stories. Some of the best-known African-American folktales are "told" by Uncle Remus, but Joel Chandler Harris was the actual person who collected and wrote down these stories. Harris put together the folktales he learned as a child, and his first collection was printed in 1881.
Although these tales have been controversial, they are becoming more accepted because of their place in history. In these tales, Brer Rabbit was cunning. He outsmarted Brer Fox and other animals time and time again. Some of the dialect, or manner of speech, of the 1800s has been kept in the stories, in which Brer Rabbit is seen as representing slaves, with Brer Fox representing slave owners.
Also included here are many well-known selections of African-American music. These songs tell about hardships as well as triumphs. The thought of freedom was probably never very far from the minds of slaves, and these songs were sung with a lot of feeling and emotion.
The last section of this book provides a brief look at real African-Americans whose achievements have enriched all of our lives.