Telling Our Story Through Their Stories

735 words - 3 pages

There was a time in which we were not slaves; that is not where our history begins. Before Africans were forced into slavery, we had a rich culture consisting of talented artists, musicians, dancers and most importantly storytellers. The storyteller or the griot is an African historian responsible for preserving the traditions of their people through historical narratives, praise songs and dances. Although the reciting of our stories began long ago, it wasn’t until the 18th century in which African American literature would be published. In the 1760’s, Phillis Wheatley, a young girl kidnapped from West Africa and enslaved by a Bostonian slave owner, published her first work of poetry at the age of 12. She didn’t typically write about slavery and racism, but her work reflected her life as an educated and privileged girl living in Boston. Literature from past to present often reflects the experiences we have encountered throughout history whether subliminal or intentional. The writings do not always reflect oppression and just like other cultures we have a myriad of stories to tell.
During the Colonial Period, oral tradition was extremely popular amongst African Americans. Many could not write or read in the English language prior to coming to the United States. True to African tradition, they would sit in either a large circle or group and recite stories. “The Elephant and The Tortoise” and “Why the Hare Runs Away” are two examples of early oral literature. They both are consistent with traditional storytelling passed down from the griots. Most tales include animals native to Africa and will almost always have a lesson to be learned. “The Elephant and The Tortoise” is about a selfish Elephant who asks Tortoise to watch a lagoon so that none of the other animals will drink from it while he went hunting. The Tortoise tried his best to protect the water, but ultimately was bullied into giving in. When Elephant came back, he asked about the water in a condescending manner and asked Tortoise whether he wanted to be swallowed or chewed. Tortoise chose to be swallowed and killed Elephant from inside. The lesson to be learned here is to not...

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