Guide African American Folk Healing

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Javascript is not enabled in your browser. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site. Learn how to enable JavaScript on your browser. Cure a nosebleed by holding a silver quarter on the back of the neck. Treat an earache with sweet oil drops. Wear plant roots to keep from catching colds.

Within many African American families, these kinds of practices continue today, woven into the fabric of black culture, often communicated through women. Such folk practices shape the concepts about healing that are diffused throughout African American communities and are expressed in myriad ways, from faith healing to making a mojo. Stephanie Y. Mitchem presents a fascinating study of African American healing. The born, unborn, and dead are all intertwined, particularly through familial connections. Story and action are intertwined in the performance of healing: the story tells of relationships and then action must follow.

Within this scheme, the person of the healer, rootworker, or conjurer is important. However, all healing is not limited to professional healers: those who know which herbs, roots, or elements to use for certain effects can access healing when needed. Understanding African American folk healing is more than simply identifying herbologists and their wisdom about plant life. African American folk healing can be found embedded in black religious life, art, social activism, and marital relationships. Folk healing exists in many forms beyond kitchen cupboards in black American communities.

The home stands as the first educational center that shapes awareness of both personal care and concepts of healing. Religious meanings are passed on in these early teachings, connecting healing with spirituality and defining health with a state of spiritual well-being. From this home grounding, African Americans learn to apply healing concepts in more diffuse ways: within the community, in encounters with others, and in translating concepts from the media and medical institutions. Folk healing operates in black communities as both individual and communal practice, with attitudes ranging from revulsion to reverence.

The basic definition provided above needs a bit more fleshing out before we move on. It is practical to think of African American folk healing as a crossroads at which several concepts and material realities converge and very different views emerge. As a cultural grounding, folk healing serves to interpret and interact with wider American society. In this way, folk healing is a form of folklore, and language is given a central role. Conceptually, African American folk healing encompasses black identities, cultures, and spiritualities.

Yet African American folk healing does not have a set of simple principles to which all adhere; rather, it attests the diversity among black Americans. However, similarities are found across regions in the epistemology. Developing from its historical roots, African American folk healing continues today in several forms.

Black folk healing is discernable in some dimensions of faith healing, and the folk concepts of healing flow easily into much social activist work undertaken by African Americans. The relationships between black American cultural production and white American societies can be seen in the historical development and understanding of black folk healing. The Slave Narratives quoted in chapter 1 will present one view of raced relations; these accounts contrast with those presented from the Folk Archives in chap- Introduction 5 ter 3.

Both of these show differences in the race relations that are shown in chapter 7. Folk healing is a crossroads that offers a glimpse into the ways that culture hybridizes within black communities in relationship to the wider American cultural framework, such as historic interactions with Native Americans or the contemporary use of the Internet.

Reference Sources

Folk healing continues to have meaning and value in black communities, but there are many questions to answer. For example: What are the healing activities and ideas of African American folk healing that aim to balance and renew life? How and why have historical instances of these healing practices carried over into the present? What are the relationships between physical and spiritual healing?

How have remnants of folk healing changed in light of greater access to information from the formalized medical profession? African American folk healing is often narrowly presented as a kind of post—Jim Crow hangover, with the implication that as soon as black people are fully acculturated into American society, they will no longer need such magical thinking. I argue differently: African American folk healing continues because of cultural conceptualizations that give life to black communities, including the economic and spiritual needs that these practices address.

To demonstrate how African American folk healing has persisted and developed, I will primarily focus on the twentieth into the twenty-first centuries. The practices and ideas in the broad spectrum I include under African American folk healing represent one of many often unacknowledged but significant discourses between black and mainstream America.

African American Folk Healing will provide an important interpretive framework for understanding multiple dimensions of this aspect of ongoing and developing black cultural expressions. The book has two parts. The first provides background and history, setting out key concepts and ideas. To this end, chapter 1 expands the working definition of African American folk healing, offering greater detail.

Chapter 2 considers African American concepts of healing in contrast to the ways that black bodies are conceptualized. Because healing is itself a concept that is connected with 6 Introduction medicine, this chapter will contrast black folk traditions with institutionalized biomedicine.

Chapter 3 makes the case for the continuations of black folk healing from the twentieth into the twenty-first century. The ways that folk practices traveled with black migrants from the South to the North of the United States present one lens through which to view adaptations of black cultural patterns. I am indebted to the Wayne State University folklore collection, which contains s interviews of African Americans who had migrated from the South to Detroit earlier in the century in search of work. This collection was instrumental in illuminating twentieth-century developments of African American folk healing.

The first three chapters inform the second part of the book, which explores various forms of the twenty-first century presence of African American folk healing. Chapter 4 draws on two interviews with healers.

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The ways they blend past thinking with modern practices demonstrate how African American folk healing is renewed through processes of hybridity. This chapter also locates African American folk healing more concretely in what I term a black mystical tradition. The next two chapters look at dimensions of folk healing as culturally based ideas that are applied to daily life. Chapter 5 considers the healing of black identities through methods such as naming and reparations, among others. In light of this healing activity, I discuss the idea of folk healing within a black intellectual tradition.

Chapter 6 considers how spirituality and religion are related to black folk healing. The last chapter, chapter 7, focuses on the commercial expressions of African American folk healing by examining some modern sources of information, from candle shops to the Internet to a hoodoo class. These contemporary practices express a black spirituality of healing that, because of its importance, I also consider in this chapter how African Americans interact with death in light of folk healing.

Through these chapters, I present my arguments that black folk healing is included in African American intellectual and mystical traditions. The intellectual aspect of folk healing expresses an ethical perspective, based on values, that can inform the individual or the community. Stated another way, the content of folk healing, even as it changes over time, is based on cultural reasoning, not chance. Simultaneously, a specific spirituality is in operation that defines a holistic cosmology and these are components of a black mystical tradition.

Introduction 7 Black Americans have often been thought of in a too-constricting framework. Analysis of African American folk healing, particularly in light of intellectual and mystical traditions, challenges boundaries that have been created in past scholarship or in the American popular imagination. The joy of writing this book has been the opportunity to explore the depth of black American wisdom. As I talked about the book with other African Americans, I came to appreciate how intimate these healing concepts have been to black communal life experiences.

Folk healing develops creative constructions that spring from culturally based wisdom. Such constructions work to resist dehumanization while simultaneously building upon the spiritual dimensions of an epistemological framework. Hence, in our conversations, we often struggled to find the right words to express the ideas that are embedded in our lives. Falling into the complexities this study uncovered was unintentional. To explore African American folk healing is to open up a vista of black American concepts about life, bodies, death, and nature. Such concepts may have spiritual referents, may move into political action, or may serve as the homegrown analysis of society.

To create and maintain such ideas, structured from African cultural orientations, American pragmatism, and information from other cultures, attests the savvy of African Americans as a people.

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Yet, tracing folk healing in black communities or through history to uncover its meanings is not a simple task. Discerning these meanings also entails tangling with layers of racism and centuries of separatism that created limited, unreal images of black Americans. Yet, African Americans continued to live in separate, segregated, and oppressive conditions. What might have happened had the promise of equality been fulfilled during Reconstruction roughly — is only a matter of speculation. What did happen in fact was another form of capture and control of black Americans. The Supreme Court ruling in the Plessy v.

Ferguson case in held that the Constitution could not eliminate the perceived hierarchy of races, with its superior-white and inferiorblack belief systems and, therefore, separate but equal was constitutional. Separation of races became the norm; a genuine awareness of the depth and richness of black lives was underrated.

Lecture 9 - Author Michele Lee: Working the Roots - Over 400 Years of African American Healing

Attempts to analyze the complex layers of black life were limited and often ran counter to the mainstream of white American scholarship. Despite these limitations, one source in particular holds valuable information about African American folk healing practices of the past. The United States government established the Works Progress Administration in to provide employment to some Americans in various fields during the Great Depression.

The project gathered oral accounts of black Americans. The accounts of twenty-three hundred black men and women were gathered throughout the South between and Some of these interviews specifically focused on narratives of enslavement. Because of strict segregation laws in effect in the s throughout the South, mostly white researchers collected these accounts.

One notable exception is anthropologist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston, who was hired by the project but whose white regional editor rejected portions of her work. In recent years, these documents have been published. However, the treatment accorded of her work signals a larger issue: it has historically been within the power of white, middle-class, Protestant communities to generate the generally accepted images of black Americans.

As a result, woven into the folk talk around black healing practices are questions of authority and validity and race. Themes of authority, creation of images, language, and interaction between African Americans and other communities are threads running throughout this book, just as they run through the dynamics of the relationships themselves.

As we Stories and Cures 13 aim for a more accurate picture, our tracing of black folk healing needs to begin with the words of black Americans. These narratives are a starting line for a closer look at the dynamics of folk healing. Yet, the meanings of the speakers themselves are often obscured; the meanings need to be teased from the texts. Reflecting the time period s in which the data were collected, information is often presented without contexts, lending itself to the interpretation of the reader.

Some of the words are creatively spelled, further conveying a sense commonly held by white people during that time of ignorant black people. The interviews related to folk healing provide essential information relevant to African American practices and beliefs during enslavement and the early twentieth century.

From curing a backache to smallpox, a variety of homegrown medical remedies utilized the elements at hand, such as black pepper, roots, and stones. Some of the cures were pragmatic, such as how to prevent a fall while crossing a creek hold a small stick crosswise between the teeth.

Yet, there are problems built into the selections.

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The very listing of these cures, because they are given without context, reinforces public images of black people as ignorant and perhaps childlike. The listings of cures without contexts also suggest to the popular imagination that folk healing is related to only plants and practices. The exception to this approach is the work of folklorists who place healing in a larger scheme that links the practices of healers to language and performance. These ideas are discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

The Slave Narratives contain another text that is barely below the surface. Although the racist mores of society structured how white and black Americans were supposed to interact in general, these mores were strictly defined in matters of research as well: black people 14 Stories and Cures were consistently identified as primitive objects that must be interpreted by the white researchers. The point of view was most often that of white America, which was further derogatory of black people. The socialized understandings are important to note here because significant changes in these relationships occurred during the twentieth century, as will be seen in later chapters.

Georgia was an especially hardened center of racist activity: in Atlanta, in September , a race riot eventuated in the lynching of twenty-five black people and the wounding of another hundred. White men were in a killing rage because of alleged rapes of white women by black men. White racists throughout the country continued to level all kinds of hostility against black Americans; race riots and lynchings became commonplace. The national climate brought distinction to Louise Oliphant, one of the white researchers in Georgia in the s.

These accounts provide some contextualization to her documentation of folk healing. The first point is the confusing range of names given to aspects of African American folk healing: conjure, conjuration, superstition, hoodoo, and juju. In particular, hoodoo, conjure, and sometimes faith healing are very often perceived as the entirety of African American folk healing. Yet there exists a wide range of practices and views beyond these that attests to wider statements of African American creativity. As a definition to use here, hoodoo or conjure is a set of practices and beliefs that draw on nature and its perceived energies in order to shape preferred conditions.

However, hoodoo is also dropped into negative categories, particularly magic, witchcraft, or sorcery. A traditional Protestant Christian concept views magic as breaking with the natural, God-created order of life to align with evil forces, such as the devil, for malevolent purposes.

These images fill Western literature and art, and history books include accounts of witch burnings. Even as some popular television shows or books over the past twenty-five years have shown happy, well-intentioned, good witches, the potential for evil enchantment or deceptive illusions is ever present. Participation in magic is, in that traditional Western Christian mindset, the equivalent of accepting damnation. In an African American epistemology, on the other hand, the supernatural is not automatically to be feared but to be respected. The charms and spells of hoodoo may bring power to the user.

Belief in this power indicates some dimensions of the basic definition of African American folk healing: that human life is understood relationally; it is part of the interconnected shared web of the universe; human life and death are contiguous realms connected by spirit; and the conjurer knows how to influence each of these dimensions. This was especially true in Georgia in the s: Oliphant may have believed exactly as the people she interviewed but could never publicly declare it.

A public discussion of magic, witchcraft, or spells from a black epistemological perspective would have been barely possible during those years. She did not cite extended interviews but developed lists of various cures. Corn shuck tea is good for measles; fodder tea for asthma. Goldenrod tea is good for chills and fever. The list does indicate the use of plant life that was readily available in farming communities. Oliphant turned her attention toward the folklore that encompasses specific cures, perhaps recognizing that healing for her respondents went beyond curative herbs.

To dream of fish is a sign of motherhood. To dream of eggs is a sign of trouble unless the eggs are broken. If the eggs are broken, your trouble is ended. Oliphant listed items that were known as prescriptions for relationships. It will cut your love in two. Human life is understood to be in relationship, part of the interconnected, shared web of the universe. Because humans and nature are understood as interrelated, it is possible to find ways to counter present or future negative life events and influences. The activities to counter the negative life events are called protection.

In one account, the interviewer placed all healing into a medical model whereby outside doctors were part of the life of the enslaved: All serious illnesses were handled by a doctor who was called in at such times. At other times Mr. Hale gave them either castor Stories and Cures 17 oil or salts. Superstition, however, had a strong grip on slave life. In the following excerpts, the concept of interrelationships between human and nature is evident.

Folk healing depends on the ability of the healer to draw on the power to control, protect, or attack, in short, to orchestrate the flow of the natural, the spiritual, and relational aspects of life. The power to do so is found in multiple places, including human or animal bodily fluids such as blood or saliva. Healing includes the preventative, in the same vein as holding a stick between the teeth while crossing a stream. John de Conqueror is supposed to conquer any kind of trouble you gits intuh.

Ritual assists in accessing such power. Rush, is to take a lizard and parch it. The remains must be put in something that the person is to eat and when the food is eaten the individual will be conjured. Spirituality will be explored in greater detail later in the book. Some might see deceased relatives, a phenomenon similar to ancestor veneration. Yet, the aspects can become construction materials for a stereotype: many common views of folk healing become enmired in a simplistic view of African Americans, their ideas and practices, radically underestimating the intelligence and creativity they have employed.

As the working definition of folk healing indicates, there are complex issues involved. Hoodoo or conjure has a spiritual context: the individual is seen as grounded in community with relationships between humans and between self and the universe considered integral to their efficacy. African American religion.

An African-based spirituality informs hoodoo. Historically, in Protestant colonies of the United States, hoodoo or conjure masked the African practices forbidden under the European religious beliefs of those regimes. Africans in the United States found ways to adapt and hold on to spiritual practices.

Stuckey emphasized that the purpose of this shout was concealed from whites, as evidenced by the written comments of whites of the era. Hoodoo developed primarily in the Protestant southern slave states, where the enslaved Africans were unable to continue or to develop distinct religious forms that closely corresponded to African traditional religions.

Hoodoo was not a formal religion, in 20 Stories and Cures contrast with Voudou. Hoodoo was pragmatic, revolving around roots and herbs for healing or protection, with a constant awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. Practitioners of hoodoo receive informal training, learning first from others in the family or community. The conjurer has a sense of being self-taught, with an ability to intuit treatment. This intuitive aspect also comes from a feeling of being called to the practice.

The beginner conjurer learns to collaborate with the divine order of the universe that connects that person to the community, nature, the past, and the present. The conjurer could also be known as a rootworker because knowledge and use of plant life is part of the practice of conjuring.

We will see these names used interchangeably in various accounts. Different writers concerned with the general subject of hoodoo will have similar definitions of the practice and its practitioners. For diagnosis Menthy will put a piece of silver in the hand or mouth of the sufferer.

If the silver turns black, he has been conjured. As a preventive against being tricked Menthy prescribes nutmeg worn on a string around the neck, or the red foot of a jay-bird carried in the pocket. The conjurer uses the power drawn from these natural elements, often through ritual action. Common matters for which petitioners approach the conjurer include health, money, luck, and love.

These could be to improve or block situations for oneself or others. For instance, the person who has been unable to get work or hold on to money may come to believe that he or she has been jinxed or fixed. The role of the conjurer is to uncross Stories and Cures 21 that situation. The people who seek the help of a conjurer are expected to pay something for services. Originally, the payment was less of an economics-driven supply-and-demand form of capitalism; rather, there was an African-based principle of spirituality, similar to tithing, that expects some return from those who are given a gift.

Protection is defensive and often involves a charm or mojo worn on the body. Again, natural elements, such as roots, stones, herbs, or animals, may be used to fix a person. In this account from the Slave Narratives, a narrator, Mr. However, they lived in the same area and became engaged in a professional competition that Aunt Judy ultimately lost. Yet, on American soil, there have consistently been mixed messages and relationships in black communities about these conjurers.

One white author identified the conjurers on plantations as both conservative and subversive, unable to break the control of the plantation owner but still powerful enough to make other slaves bow to his or her will. Fear was their 22 Stories and Cures primary weapon, the author declared. Such interpretations are not limited to white authors.

Essays by students at Hampton, a historically black college, that were written in , negatively describe conjurers.

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For some black people, the social need to establish distance from or discredit hoodoo was part of the processes of assimilation into white American society. There were also pressures from some church denominations for African Americans to become authentically Christian by rejecting anything that was deemed heathen, including the use of magic. Meanwhile, some of the conjurers discredited themselves by abusing their power or attempting to perform acts of power that were impossible. The conjurer, despite negative reports, continued to figure in the black imagination.

The idea of an individual with the power to mold human conditions and relationships, combined with an intimate knowledge of how nature works, taps into cultural concepts of the interconnectedness of life. Information on healing or fixing was not solely the domain of the conjurer. Those who practice some form of conjure continued to operate in black communities.

In addition to conjurers, designated healers or rootworkers were necessary for the life of the community and not easily discredited.


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There were few white doctors who would practice their medicine on African Americans during enslavement and for many years beyond Emancipation. This absence required the development of healers in and for black communities. Historian Deborah Gray White identified that healing the ill and nurturing infants were Stories and Cures 23 tasks given over to elderly enslaved women on plantations.


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Once obtained, the medical news was rapidly disseminated throughout the newly organized medical community of the United States—in medical publications, in medical education and in meetings of fledgling professional associations of white medical men. Although efforts of black clubwomen raised funds for black hospitals in urban settings such as Chicago, most African Americans in southern or rural areas had little access to this type of medical care.

Instead, folk healers were known and trusted in their communities, establishing relationships with those who became their patients. Whether called rootworker or conjurer, folk healers continued to operate well into the middle of the twentieth century; then, state licensing of medical practitioners became law. Concepts of conjure and rootwork often overlapped with faith healing. The idea that God gave the knowledge of what to do to take care of health problems emerges repeatedly in oral histories.

Their mother cleaned the cut and filled it with axle grease, even using other grease purchased from an itinerant peddler who sold cures. It healed. A miracle is the word. In faith healing, an accepted religious cause and motivation is assigned to the 24 Stories and Cures process of being healed. The healer is believed to be a conduit for Divine Power, such as Jesus or the Spirit. But some of the practices look very similar to those of the conjurer or rootworker, who is seen as accessing the power of nature, not specifically the Divine. The role of faith healing in the religious lives of black people is supported by multiple testimonies of cures.

Arthur Fausset noted one such instance in the historic text Black Gods of the Metropolis. Redeemed Love despaired of walking again. Suddenly she was healed. Thus she became a Divinite. Naturally, also, Daddy Grace can heal the sick, and give sight to the blind. The broad epistemological framework views nature, human, and the Divine as intimately related.

Black community members generally do not see these forms of healing as discrete areas or different specializations. Instead, there is recognition of the gift of healing expressed in different ways. Despite this common ground, there are many in black communities who disparage and distance themselves from forms of folk or faith healing, as we saw in the excerpt concerning the Hampton students. However, even their rejection of such ideas provides proof that the ideas still have currency in black communities: one cannot deny what one does not know.

Despite some rejections, a mindset, reasoning process, and spirituality continued in black communities that remain grounding for folk healing to continue. Healing:Through the Lens of Folklore As we think back to the definition of folk healing delineated at the beginning of this book, we can see elements that are clearly discernable in the examples of the Slave Narratives of the preceding section.

For African American folk healing, such description is needed to demonstrate the imbricated components that are part of its constructions. But the definition needs further elaboration. Stories and Cures 25 Folk healing generally has been placed under the category of folklore. One folklorist, William Bascom, defined it thusly: Folklore means folk learning: it comprehends all knowledge that is transmitted by word of mouth and all crafts and techniques that are learned by imitation or example as well as the products of these crafts. Folklore includes folk art, folk crafts, folk tools, folk costume, folk custom, folk belief, folk medicine, folk recipes, folk music, folk dance, folk games, folk gestures, and folk speech, as well as those verbal forms of expression which have been called folk literature but which are better described as verbal art.

The designation of folklore itself becomes problematic because it is housed within multiple academic disciplines. Yet those who study folklore in English, literature, religion, cultural studies, or anthropology can attest its importance in the daily-lived community constructions of culture and identity. Scholars across disciplines can attest that folklore makes and expresses meaning. There are several nuanced ways in which African American folk healing is a form of folklore. They are spontaneously generated by their members rather than consciously shaped and directed by an outside force.

In their self-reliance, they draw on culturally derived innovations and an aesthetic fluidity based on African American folk cultural traditions. Moreover, the folk cultural equation and, to an extent, also the popular, ensures the persistence of African-based cultural adaptations. Although there exist formal associations from family 26 Stories and Cures settings to church groups to lodges, the culturally derived innovations of cures and spells, along with traditions of healers, will be transmitted informally, perhaps part of side conversations at a meeting hall or workplace.

Stories of healers, those healed, or those witnessing a healing, commonly tell of the processes involved. Part of the role of the healer is to find a way, if there is nothing known, to develop the healing. Folk tales and myth become a form of communicating about the operations of the universe, human relationships, and, therefore, healing. African American folk healing encompasses more than the physical dimension of the human person.

As another dimension of relationality, spirit possession in its many forms is a dramatic example of relationships between humans and spirits. In African American epistemology, there is awareness of the related spiritual dimension and the intertwining of this life with the world beyond. These are also understood as being relational. Therefore, among many African Americans, spirituality is also a holistic practice: spirit and flesh, nature and humans, all are related and not understood as divorced from one another. Perhaps one reason that many African Americans feel so comfortable in so-called charismatic churches is their common shared sense of a spirit-filled world where God is an actor in daily life, accessible at any given moment.

This holistic view does not mandate a list of rules but stresses relationships. Indirectly, an ethical vision of the good of human life and the aims of society are implied, as we will see in the following pages. Persons with the power of healing, speaking to spirits, speaking in tongues, or other charismatic gifts are seen to bear a certain responsibility to develop those gifts and to use them. Such gifts are themselves amoral Stories and Cures 27 and can be used for good or for evil.

Responsibility for their use rests on the person, in conjunction with the community. Folk healing, under the category of folklore, encompasses word, action, story, ritual, and practice. Black folk healing encompasses not only the individual but links between a person to community and cosmos. Even the power of the healer is perceived as impersonal, coming through one individual to another. There is no implied morality in African American folk healing; instead, the healing is amoral, depending on the intentions of the healer and those to be healed. The amoral aspect of folk healing places the burden of responsible use on the participants.

The healer must determine the cause of an illness as natural or unnatural. Natural illness is believed to result from exposure to cold, from misbehavior such as eating too much of a certain food, or from impurities that may be encountered in air or water. These illnesses have the potential of being treated with natural means, such as medicines. The idea of medicine in folk healing is not simply roots or spells. Anyone and anything may participate in the operation of medicine, either directly or indirectly. Medicine is pervasive to the interests of participant groups that embrace it as a concept.

Thus, broadly, all members of such groups practice medicines, from wearing a charm to rituals of birth, death, and propitiation. Medicine is institutional, represents accumulated wisdom and culture, and thus is attended by custodians who may be priests or other competents able to manipulate its force. Simply put, causes of illnesses can be more than biological. For instance, relationships can be considered as a 28 Stories and Cures source of sickness, such as the results of an unhealthy marriage or worry over a child. A person may also be hexed, fixed, or hoodooed by others.

Evil the person may have done is also considered to result in illness. Each of these requires diagnosis and unnatural treatment by an expert such as a conjure woman or man. Folk healing is embedded in black cultural patterns. Not merely a cultural artifact, healing practices also define something about black people, the power we have, and our spirituality.

Such ideas stand in contrast with the quick dismissal given to healing practices as superstition or witchcraft. By its continuance, African American folk healing can be considered an alternative form of knowledge that black theologian Lee Butler names resistance culture. Resistance culture, Butler contends, is different from a popular culture that serves only the mainstream. Instead, culture as a form of resistance maintains a separate way of knowing in order to avoid dehumanization.

Cultural resistance stands against the status quo. Standing against a rage that colorizes land rights, over-sexualizes sacred space, and racializes human dignity, the resistance culture declares its selfhood through what appears to be the outrageous, auda- Stories and Cures 29 cious, unrehearsed presentation of sight and sound. Its genius is often reduced to physical performance, which tends to be exploited and is assumed to be its only redeeming quality. More filters. Sort order. This is a very academic book so it can be rather dry and dense at times especially if you have to ask what is epistemology 20 times before looking it up in the dictionary.

On the plus side it is packed with interesting information about African American Folk Healing past and present. There is extensive use of reference material such as the Works Progress Adminstration's Federal Writers' Project which gathered black oral history starting in The author also provided personal interviews she c This is a very academic book so it can be rather dry and dense at times especially if you have to ask what is epistemology 20 times before looking it up in the dictionary.

The author also provided personal interviews she conducted with modern day black American healers. This is not a how to book nor a guide to any of the different healing methods. A lot of pages are spent in discussion of how black history has impacted black health and healing methods even today and reasons for distrust in the community of institutional medicine.

There is no favoritism shown towards one religious group over the other and so the reader will learn about perspectives of black evangelical healers to hoodoo practioners. Personally I found the direct quotes from healers of the past and present gave life to this book. I could have lived without the heavy academic style but my interest lies more in knowing what the healing methods are and the focus of Stephanie Mitchem is to provide a black perspective in academia.

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