African American History Month Celebration 2020

A collaboration between Cedarhurst Center for the Arts and Mt. Vernon City Schools, District 80

Program Sponsors: Hassakis and Hassakis, P.C. | George and Paula (Mace) Kuhn | The Bernard and Naomi L. Podolsky Charitable Trust | Kevin and Cheryl Settle

“African American Folktales"

African-American folktales are a storytelling tradition based in Africa containing a rich oral tradition that expanded as Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves. New tales based on their experience in the Americas emerged as well as new characters and themes (e.g. birds and people with magical powers who could fly away.) In general, most African-American Folktales fall into one of seven categories: tales of origin, tales of trickery and trouble, tales of triumph over natural or supernatural evils, comic heartwarming tales, tales teaching life lessons, tales of ghosts and spirits, and tales of slaves and their slave-owners. Many revolve around animals which have human characteristics with the same morals and short comings as humans to make the stories relatable. Folktales belong to all of us. They are part of our American history.

While these classic stories are not only highly entertaining, they also play an important role in passing along core values or character traits. Folktales were often employed to share a common history (which doesn’t always make it into the history books) and to reinforce cultural values.

For several generations, stories from Africa have traditionally been passed down by word of mouth. Often, after a hard day’s work, the adults would gather the children together by moonlight, around a village fire and tell stories. This was traditionally called 'Tales by Moonlight'. Usually, the stories are meant to prepare young people for life, and so each story taught a lesson or moral.

In African folk tales, the stories reflect the culture where diverse types of animals abound. The animals and birds are often accorded human attributes, so it is not uncommon to find animals talking, singing, or demonstrating other human characteristics such as greed, jealousy, honesty, etc. The setting in many of the stories exposes the reader to the landform and climate within that region of Africa. References are often made to different seasons such as the 'dry' or 'rainy' season and their various effects on the surrounding vegetation and animal life.

Some information used in the above program description has been taken from the Anike Foundation website. For more information on the efforts of Anike Foundation visit anikefoundation.org


Featured Art and Performing Artist:

Bobby Norfolk - bobbynorfolk.com
The Anansi Spider - A West African Folktale: Origin - Present day Ghana, off the coast of West Africa, is home to the Ashanti (or Asante) people whose oral tradition of storytelling eventually brought the story of Anansi to life. Bobby Norfolk's performance will include the story of the Anansi Spider.


Suggested music:

Music Video Playlist available on Cedarhurst's YouTube Channel


Suggested Books*:

PDF Downloads:

AAHM 2020 Lesson Plan AAHM 2020 Lesson Plan (6121 KB)

*Please select the John R and Eleanor R Mitchell Foundation when using the Amazon Smile links above to allow a portion of the purchase price to support Cedarhurst programming.