Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Ethnic Studies
Kristin Herzog's journey into the past is a necessary journey for serious students of ethnic and American studies; she establishes the relevance and validity of oral literature which has been relegated to an inferior status by scholars in the western world. The attempt to impose an inferior status on oral literature is rather sinister when one considers the absence of a written literature has been taken to mean an absence of intellectual activity on the part of such people. Not only American Indians but also Africans have suffered a great deal because of the tendency to regard such people as lacking in culture or intellectual achievements. On the contrary, the oral tradition has been the strength of ancient cultures as Kristin Herzog shows and was brought to light in a remarkable way by Alex Haley in his novel ROOTS. Alex Haley went back to a living ancient tradition in The Gambia and brought to life and to the attention of the world the richness of an African culture while documenting his personal history. There is, however, a danger that oral tradition might not stand up to critical scientific analysis but this does not mean that it cannot be validated by evidence from other sources supporting it. The main point to be made however is that oral tradition is a legitimate tradition.
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1984