African-American English

African-American English shows the influence of the different languages spoken by Africans brought to the United States, as well as the English spoken in the places where these people commonly lived. African-American religious and musical traditions also bear witness to diverse origins united by a shared American experience. Recordings in the Rudolph Willard collection capture a small sample of these traditions.

Austin native John Henry Faulk (1913-1990) studied English at the University of Texas at Austin, working with renowned folklorist J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964). Faulk also developed a relationship with English professor Rudolph Willard. Encouraged by his professors, Faulk recorded the sermons of ten African-American preachers and transcribed them for his master's thesis. This led to later projects recording speakers around the south, including the narratives of former slaves. Many of Faulk's recordings were archived by the Library of Congress. Duplicates of several of those recordings appear in the Rudolph Willard collection, and it is likely that Faulk gave copies to his former professor to supplement Willard's growing collection of linguistic recordings. Willard also seems to have followed Faulk's lead, creating several additional recordings of black preachers, singers, and students. He even attended and made remarks at a service of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Austin in 1941. The recordings collected by Faulk and Willard provide a glimpse into both the speech and the experiences of African-Americans at a critical time between the end of slavery and the dawn of the civil rights era.

Available Files

Church Services: Big Six Council on the Hill (Lockhart, Texas), Friendly Will Baptist Church (Austin, Texas), Sister Franklin, Rev. R.R. Reese, Rev. Sellars, Unknown

Music: Melnina Johnson, The Paramount Singers, Sister Cambric

Interviews and Narratives: Estelle and Hellen Finney, Major Graham, Uncle George Ives, Linda Jean and Tish, Laura Smalley, Aunt Harriet Smith and John Talley

"Young Rat" Story Elicitations: Hattie Blount, Beatrice Davis, Gloria Vivian Guice, Muriel Hixson, Cleotus B. Holloway, Josephine Jones, Edward Pipkins, Fred Watson, Robin Wilson

Church Services

Speakers: Attendees at Big Six Council on the Hill

TELL ID: 0293, 0294, 0295

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0293, 0294] Attendees at the Big Six Council on the Hill, a brush arbor meeting held in Lockhart, Texas, sing and pray. [0295] Attendees sing "Lifting Up," and a male speaker preaches on Mark 9.

Date: 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Lockhart, Caldwell County, Texas

Sex: Mixed Group, Unknown Size

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 7, Disc 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speakers: Attendees at Friendly Will Baptist Church

TELL ID: 0192, 0288, 0289, 0290, 0291, 0292, 0296, 0298, 0299, 0518, 0520, 0521

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0192] Attendees at Friendly Will Baptist Church in Austin, Texas sing "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say."

[0288, 0289, 0290, 0291, 0298] Attendees sing and pray.

[0292] Attendees sing "Amen" and "Sweet Hour of Prayer."

[0296] Attendees sing "I'm Goin' On My Knees and Pray." A male speaker introduces Brother Freeman, who prays and speaks.

[0299] A male speaks and sings in a call and response style.

[0518] A male speaker leads the church service, and the Spiritual Harmonizers Quartet sings.

[0520, 0521] A male speaker leads the collection of an offering.

Date: 1940-1941

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Austin, Travis County, Texas

Sex: Mixed Group, Unknown Size

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: [0192] Box 5, Disc 11, Side 2

[0288, 0289, 0290, 0291, 0292] Box 7, Disc 1

[0296] Box 7, Disc 3, Side 1

[0298, 0299] Box 7, Disc 4

[0518] Box 9, Disc 30, Side 1

[0520, 0521] Box 9, Disc 30, Side 2, Tracks 2-3

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Sister Franklin

TELL ID: 0297

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: Sister Franklin sings with a choir and speaks. A male speaks, and Sister Franklin leads the group in singing "Power." The male speaks again, and Sister Franklin shares her testimony.

Date: 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: United States

Sex: Female (Sister Franklin); Male (Unknown Speaker); Mixed Group, Unknown Size

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 7, Disc 3, Side 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Rev. R. R. Reese

TELL ID: 0191, 0358, 0539, 0540

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0191] Rev. R. R. Reese preaches in a call-and-response style at Friendly Will Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

[0358] Rev. R. R. Reese preaches in a call-and-response style (location unknown).

[0539] A mixed choir at a brush arbor meeting near Lockhart, Texas sings "Amazing Grace." A male speaker prays and Rev. R. R. Reese interjects.

[0540] A male speaker at a brush arbor meeting near Lockhart, Texas reads from Romans 10. A mixed choir sings "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah." Rev. R. R. Reese asks sinners to identify themselves and delivers a sermon on the Jew, the Gentile, and the church.

Date: 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: (Rev. R. R. Reese, Friendly Will Baptist Church) Austin, Travis County, Texas

(Brush Arbor Meeting Attendees) Lockhart, Caldwell County, Texas

Sex: Male (Rev. R. R. Reese); Male (Unknown Speaker); Mixed Group, Unknown Size

Age: Unknown

Race: Black (all speakers)

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Reverend (Rev. R. R. Reese)

Original Recording Location: [0191] Box 5, Disc 11, Side 1

[0358] Box 7, Disc 17, Side 1

[0539-0540] Box 9, Disc 35

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Rev. Sellars

TELL ID: 0185

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: Rev. Sellars leads a church in prayer.

Date: September 12, 1940

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Austin, Travis County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Reverend

Original Recording Location: Box 5, Disc 8, Side 1, Track 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Unknown

TELL ID: 0196, 0197, 0302, 0303, 0328, 0327

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0196] A male speaker tells the story of "The Projikal Son."

[0197] A male speaker gives a sermon on Hebrews 4.

[0302] A male preaches in a sung speech style about the crucifixion of Jesus, then speaks about God's creation of the world.

[0303] A male preaches in a sung speech style about the crucifixion of Jesus.

[0328] A male sings the beginning of "David & Golisha."

[0327] A male sings the end of "David & Golisha."

Date: [0196-0197] November 2, 1939

[0302-0303, 0327-0328] 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: [0196-0197] Box 5, Disc 13

[0302-0303] Box 7, Disc 6

[0327-0328] Box 7, Disc 13, Side 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Music

Performer: Melnina Johnson

TELL ID: 0171, 0172

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0171] Melnina Johnson sings "Loan Me, Loan Me a Helping Hand."

[0172] Melnina Johnson sings "Ol' Man Zion."

Date: July 29, 1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Bastrop County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 5, Disc 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Performers: The Paramount Singers [Brother A. C. Franklin, Ermant M. Franklin, Sr., James Haywood Medlock, Geno Terrell, Kermit Terrell, Brother Ben H. Williams]

TELL ID: 0179, 0181, 0182, 0183, 0184, 0349, 0350, 0545

Creator: [0179-0184] John Henry Faulk

[0349, 0545] Rudolph Willard

[0350] Rudolph Willard and KTVC Radio Austin, Texas

Description: [0179] The Paramount Singers sing "I'm Looking for the Man That Don't Know Jesus."

[0181] The Paramount Singers sing "Moverin'".

[0182] The Paramount Singers sing "Have You Any Time for Jesus," and James Haywood Medlock introduces the group members.

[0183] The Paramount Singers sing "I've Got Jesus on My Mind."

[0184] The Paramount Singers sing "One Day Too Late."

[0349] The Paramount Singers sing "And Take Your Hand."

[0350] The Paramount Singers sing "When I Come to Town." A male KTVC radio announcer describes the group.

[0545] The Paramount Singers sing "It's Cool Down Here."

Date: 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: [All Group Members] Austin, Travis County, Texas

[James Haywood Medlock] Mexia, Limestone County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black (all speakers)

Education: High school (all speakers)

Occupations: Singer (all speakers)

Original Recording Location: [0179] Box 5, Disc 5, Side 1, Track 2

[0181, 0182] Box 5, Disc 6

[0183, 0184] Box 5, Disc 7

[0349, 0350] Box 7, Disc 16, Side 2, Tracks 5-6

[0545] Box 9, Disc 37, Side 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0180 is a duplicate of 0179, 0346, 0347, and 0348 are related incomplete files. 0544 is a duplicate of 0545. To hear these files, please contact TELL.

Performer: Sister Cambric

TELL ID: 0186, 0199, 0300, 0301

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0186] Sister Cambric sings "The Book of the Revelation."

[0199] Sister Cambric sings "Amazing Grace (No More, No More)."

[0300] Sister Cambric sings "If You Don't Want to Get in Trouble."

[0301] Sister Cambric sings "The Angel Done Gone Down."

Date: [0186] September 12, 1940

[0187, 0300, 0301] 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: United States

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: [0186] Box 5, Disc 8, Side 2, Track 1

[0187] Box 5, Disc 14, Side 2

[0300-0301] Box 7, Disc 5

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Interviews and Narratives

Speakers: Estelle and Hellen Finney

TELL ID: 0345

Creator: John Henry Faulk and/or Rudolph Willard

Description: John Henry Faulk interviews Estelle and Hellen Finney about where they go to school and things they like to do for fun. They sing several songs with a third young girl.

Date: 1940-1942

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: United States

Sex: Female (both speakers)

Age: Under 18 (both speakers)

Race: Black (both speakers)

Education: Some schooling (both speakers)

Occupations: Student (both speakers)

Original Recording Location: Box 7, Disc 16, Side 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Major Graham

TELL ID: 0363, 0364

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Description: [0363] Major Graham describes his background and his parents' backgrounds and talks about religious songs.

[0364] Major Graham talks about Negro spirituals and the 1928 National Democratic Convention in Houston.

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Austin, Travis County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 8, Disc 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Uncle George Ives

TELL ID: 0077, 0078, 0079, 0080, 0081

Creator: Unknown

Description: [0077] Uncle George Ives tells a riddle about Virginia and the rabbit and answers questions about catching fish.

[0078] Uncle George Ives talks about snakes in Columbia and advice that he gives boys.

[0079] Uncle George Ives tells the beginning of a tarbaby story.

[0080] Uncle George Ives tells a story from Joe Stephens in Alabama about the Devil and Bobtail.

[0081] Uncle George Ives tells the end of the tarbaby story.

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Columbia, County/State Unknown, United States

Sex: Male

Age: 65

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 2, Discs 15-16

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0076 is a partial duplicate of 0077. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speakers: Linda Jean and Tish

TELL ID: 0488, 0489, 0491, 0492, 0493

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0488] Linda Jean talks to and about her baby.

[0489] Linda Jean talks and sings to her baby.

[0491] Linda Jean talks to Tish (a young girl) and to her baby.

[0492] Linda Jean and Tish sing and talk to a baby and a cat.

[0493] Linda Jean talks to her baby.

Date: November 30, 1941

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: United States

Sex: Female (both speakers)

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Unknown

Original Recording Location: Box 9, Discs 22-23

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0490 is a related file that contains noises only. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speakers: Laura Smalley

TELL ID: 0546, 0547

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0546] Laura Smalley talks about her master and about getting a whipping.

[0547] Laura Smalley talks about taking care of children and feeding and nursing them.

Date: 1941

Language: English

Dialectal Influences: Hempstead, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: Unknown

Occupations: Former slave

Original Recording Location: Box 9, Disc 38, Side 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None.

Speakers: Aunt Harriet Smith and John Talley

TELL ID: 0175, 0176, 0177, 0178

Creator: John Henry Faulk

Description: [0175] Aunt Harriet Smith talks about her childhood and what it was like when her father came to Texas, about wild animals, and about churches. John Talley tells a story about having horses on the university campus.

[0176] John Talley and Aunt Harriet Smith talk about going to church at Mountain City and slaves being set free.

[0177] John Talley and Aunt Harriet Smith talk about Native Americans, and John Talley tells a story about Charlie Mason.

[0178] John Talley tells a story about a doctor and a German.

Date: 1941

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Sex: Female (Aunt Harriet Smith), Male (John Talley)

Age: Unknown

Race: Black (both speakers)

Education: Unknown (both speakers)

Occupations: Former slave (both speakers)

Original Recording Location: Box 5, Discs 3-4

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Story Elicitations

In these files, speakers read a version of "The Young Rat," a story originally written as "I Don't Know" by Gertrude Sellon.

Speaker: Hattie Blount

TELL ID: 0036

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Houston, Harris County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: High school (Phyllis Wheatley High School)

Occupations: Student

Original Recording Location: Box 1, Disc 15, Side 2, Track 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0095. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speaker: Beatrice Davis

TELL ID: 0037

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Wharton, Wharton County, Texas

Prairie View, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: High school, College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 1, Disc 15, Side 2, Track 3

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0096. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speaker: Gloria Vivian Guice

TELL ID: 0167

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Navasota, Grimes County, Texas

Prairie View, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 4, Disc 9, Side 1, Track 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Muriel Hixson

TELL ID: 0094

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Dallas, Dallas County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: High school (Booker T. Washington High School)

Occupations: Student

Original Recording Location: Box 2, Disc 19, Side 2, Track 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0035. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speaker: Cleotus B. Holloway

TELL ID: 0033

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Normandy, Maverick County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 1, Disc 15, Side 1, Track 2

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0092. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speaker: Josephine Jones

TELL ID: 0166

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Wharton, Wharton County, Texas

Prairie View, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 4, Disc 9, Side 1, Track 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Edward Pipkins

TELL ID: 0168

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: Katherine E. Wheatley

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Ferris, Dallas or Ellis County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: High school or College

Occupations: Student

Original Recording Location: Box 4, Disc 9, Side 1, Track 3

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: None

Speaker: Fred Watson

TELL ID: 0034

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Prairie View, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Male

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 1, Disc 15, Side 1, Track 3

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0093. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Speaker: Robin Wilson

TELL ID: 0032

Creator: Rudolph Willard

Interviewers Heard on Recording: None

Date: Unknown

Language: English

Dialectal Influences:

Prairie View, Waller County, Texas

Sex: Female

Age: Unknown

Race: Black

Education: College

Occupations: College student

Original Recording Location: Box 1, Disc 15, Side 1, Track 1

Additional Files with Duplicate Content: 0091. To hear this file, please contact TELL.

Sources:


2017_HTT_Bouldin_Years_Program_for_Web.pdf. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.preservationaustin.org/uploads/2017_HTT_Bouldin_Years_Program_for_Web.pdf
Collection (continued. see 5184A). Song: He's so good to me | Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/afc9999005.14774/
Drake, C. (2009). You gotta stand up: The life and times of John Henry Faulk. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Scholars.
Faulk, John Henry | Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/search/?all=true&fa=contributor:faulk,+john+henry
J. Frank Dobie - Wikipedia. (2019). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Frank_Dobie
John Henry Faulk - Wikipedia. (2019). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Faulk
Mufwene, S. S. (2019). African-American English | dialect | Britannica.com. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/African-American-English
Sellon, G. (1876). I don't know. In The Man's Boot, and Other Tales: or, Fabulous Truths in Words of One Syllable (52-55). London: Wertheimer, Lea, and Co.
Shorkey, C. T. (2015). PARAMOUNT SINGERS | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). Retrieved from https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgp02
Image Credit: "Church service in the Negro church, Woodville, Greene County, Georgia, October 1941." Retrieved from https://nypl.getarchive.net/media/church-service-in-the-negro-church-woodville-greene-county-georgia-october-41903a