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Transcultural transformation: African American and Native American relations

Barbara S Tracy, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The intersected lives of African Americans and Native Americans result not only in Black Indians, but also in a shared culture that is evidenced by music, call and response, and story. These intersected lives create a dynamic of shared and diverging pathways that speak to each other. It is a crossroads of both anguish and joy that comes together and apart again like the tradition of call and response. There is a syncopation of two cultures becoming greater than their parts, a representation of losses that are reclaimed by a greater degree. In the tradition of call and response, by denying one or the other something is lost. Claiming the relationship turns transcultural transformation into a powerful response. Working from Henry Gates' explanation of signifying combined with Houston Baker's description of blues literature, I examine signifying, call and response, and blues/jazz elements in the work of three writers to discover the collective lives of African Americans, Native Americans, and Black Indians. In the writing of Black-Cherokee Alice Walker, I look for the call and response of both African and Native American story-ways. I find these same elements in the writing of Spokane/Coeur d'Alene writer Sherman Alexie, in his blues writings and his revision of Robert Johnson's and other stories. In the work of Creek/Cherokee Craig Womack, I examine a Creek/Cherokee perspective of Black Creeks and Freemen. In all of these works, I find that the shared African American and Native American experience plainly takes place in these works in a variety of ways in which the authors call upon oral and written story, song, and dance, and create a response that clearly signifies the combined power of these shared experiences. This is a fusion of shared traditions with differences that demonstrate the blending of voices and culture between two peoples who have been improvising together for a long time.^

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black Studies|Literature, American|Native American Studies

Recommended Citation

Tracy, Barbara S, "Transcultural transformation: African American and Native American relations" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3386563.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3386563

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