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Coleman 4

that cannot go unnoticed. The expressions by Black artisans, like the spirituals and work songs of this time, enabled the slaves, as David Driskell has observed, to keep "their somber memories alive...creating a new language of form that echoed Africa in a distant land."* the importance of the folk tradition to later Afro-American cultural development has been underscored in the works of David Driskell, Samella Lewis, Carroll Greene, and Robert F. Thompson, among others. But few interpreters of the Black Experience have spoken so eloquently of the importance of the folk tradition as Ralph Ellison has in Shadow and Act (1966):

Negro folklore, evolving within a larger culture which regarded it as inferior, was an especially courageous expression It announced the Negro's willingness to trust his own experience, his own sensibilities as to the definition of reality, rather than allow his masters to define these crucial matters for him.

Certainly the early Afro-American craftsman-- individuals such as Henry Gudgell, Thomas Day, the numerous quilters such as Harriet Powers (1837-1911)-- "trusted their own experience..." Theirs was "Soul Talk", in the words of Stephen Henderson, a way that "takes language down to the deepest common level of our experiences while hinting at things to come." * To be sure, the corpus of work produced by Black craftsmen served as the beginning of Black self-portraiture-- self-definition- and for-shadowed subsequent developments.

The problem of the Black craftsman was quite different from that