This volume brings back into print a remarkable record of black
life in the 1920s, chronicled by Edward C.L. Adams, a white
physician from the area around the Congaree River in central South
Carolina. It reproduces Adams's major works, Congaree
(1927) and Nigger to Nigger
collections of tales, poems, and dialogues from blacks who worked
his land, presented in the black vernacular language. They are
supplemented here by a play, Potee's Gal
, and some brief
sketches of poor whites.
What sets Adams's tales apart from other such collections is the
willingness of his black informants to share with him not only
their stories of rabbits and "hants" but also their feelings on
such taboo subjects as lynchings, Jim Crow courts, and chain gangs.
Adams retells these tales as if the blacks in them were talking
only among themselves. Whites do not appear in these works, except
as rare background figures and topics of conversation by Tad, Scip,
and other black storytellers. As Tad says, "We talkin' to we."
That Adams was permitted to hear such tales at all is part of the
mystery that Robert O'Meally explains in his introduction. The key
to the mystery is Adams's ability -- in his life, as in his works
-- to wear both black and white masks. He remained a well-placed
member of white society at the same time that he was something of a
maverick within it. His black informants therefore saw him not only
as someone more likeable and trustworthy than most whites but also
as someone who was in a position to help them in some way if he
understood more about their lives.
As a writer, O'Meally suggests, Adams was not simply an objective
recorder of folklore. By donning a black mask, Adams was able to
project attitudes and values that most whites of his place and time
would have disavowed. As a result, his tales have a complexity and
richness that make them an authentic witness to the black
experience as well as a lasting contribution to American