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Mojo Workin'

The Old African American Hoodoo System

Katrina Hazzard-Donald

Publication Year: 2012

Katrina Hazzard-Donald explores African Americans' experience and practice of the herbal, healing folk belief tradition known as Hoodoo. Working against conventional scholarship, Hazzard-Donald argues that Hoodoo emerged first in three distinct regions she calls "regional Hoodoo clusters" and that after the turn of the nineteenth century, Hoodoo took on a national rather than regional profile. The first interdisciplinary examination to incorporate a full glossary of Hoodoo culture, Mojo Workin': The Old African American Hoodoo System lays out the movement of Hoodoo against a series of watershed changes in the American cultural landscape. Throughout, Hazzard-Donald distinguishes between "Old tradition Black Belt Hoodoo" and commercially marketed forms that have been controlled, modified, and often fabricated by outsiders; this study focuses on the hidden system operating almost exclusively among African Americans in the Black spiritual underground._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

All work, whether monumental or modest, is never the result of a solitary effort. I owe thanks to people too numerous to name who supported and assisted me in the production of this work. I thank the American Council of Learned Societies who...

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pp. 1-18

On October 7, 1994, then nationally known talk show host Phil Donahue featured a segment highlighting a terrifying and bizarre incident that occurred in Dallas, Texas. The incident involved a young African American woman, a school teacher named...

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1. Traditional Religion in West Africa and in the New World: A Thematic Overview

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pp. 19-33

Though some scholarship of the past four decades on African religion and culture has been fairer, broader, more objective, and more accurate in its examination and presentation than many earlier works, overall much traditional African and..

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2. Disruptive Intersection: Slavery and the African Background in the Making of Hoodoo

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pp. 34-67

The improbability of precisely locating when and where Hoodoo emerged has not precluded this author from including this as a subtextual concern. Throughout this inquiry, this author questions the common and popular understanding that, like...

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3. The Search for High John the Conquer

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pp. 68-83

Early in the North American slave experience, the conditions of bondage circumscribed African slave life and transformed the remotest aspects of slave psyche, mythology, and behavior. In response to this, resistance behaviors appeared in the slave...

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4. Crisis at the Crossroads: Sustaining and Transforming Hoodoo’s Old Black Belt Tradition from

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pp. 84-115

The period following emancipation was transformative in every sense for African Americans. Both the physical and social boundaries of their cultural lives would be expanded and would develop a more prominent national profile. It was a period of fragmenting and recoalescing values and practices as the nation shifted...

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5. The Demise of Dr. Buzzard: Black Belt Hoodoo between the Two World Wars

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pp. 116-134

The period between World Wars I and II would play host to diversification in spiritual merchandising that contributed to an ever-strengthening subversion and undermining of Hoodoo’s traditional old black belt practice. Aspects of the black belt Hoodoo tradition that the snake-oil industry could not exploit would begin...

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6. Healin’ da Sick, Raisin da Daid: Hoodoo as Health Care, Root Doctors, Midwives, Treaters

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pp. 135-155

The full dimensions of Hoodoo have been overlooked. Even recent scholarship on Hoodoo has not included a discussion of the medicinal aspect of the tradition. In addition, that scholarship has totally overlooked a discussion of traditional Hoodoo healers: treaters, midwives, and root doctors. Even African Americans...

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7. Black Belt Hoodoo in the Post–World War II Cultural Environment

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pp. 156-178

The aftermath of World War II, particularly its benefits in the form of educational supports, jobs, pensions, and housing benefits from the GI bill to returning African American servicemen, would provide the black community with both incentives and opportunities for continuing migration northward. Increased...

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pp. 179-186

With the previous discussion considered, it appears that the future of old tradition Hoodoo is uncertain. The only era in which Hoodoo was universally used by African Americans, as a vehicle for liberation, was the era of enslavement. Hoodoo initially...


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pp. 187-204


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pp. 205-210


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pp. 211-226


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pp. 227-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094460
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037290

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012