The intersections of racism and economic oppression in the US have worked to put African American men in a state of perpetual precarity. This multiangled and aggressive oppression has resulted in high rates of educational instability, mass incarceration, and early death among this group. As such, a segment of Black male folklife engages and addresses illegal activity and incarceration. Further, aspects of Black male folklife have been used as evidence of Black male criminality. From language practices to dress to hip hop and more, the folklife of Black men has a reciprocal relationship with crime, punishment, and physical vulnerability. This phenomenon also extends to Black men doing folklore work.

In this article, I use historical and contemporary case studies as well as personal reflections to examine the complex precarity of Black male life through its relationship to folk practices. This piece will explore folklife as a tool of oppression, voice of protest and affirmation, and field of practice that illuminates the nuances of Black male subjugation. Ultimately, the purpose of this article is to provide important considerations for academic and public sector folklorists who engage with Black male folk genres and tradition bearers.


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pp. 77-98
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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