Books about Urban Legends
I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1993)

I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Fried chicken will make you sterile; the FBI killed Martin Luther King, Jr.; the ``powers that be'' facilitated the crack epidemic, the AIDS epidemic, and the murders of black children in Atlanta: Here, folklore scholar Turner (African-American and African Studies/UC Davis) offers an illuminating examination of why rumors like these persist in the African-American community. Turner explores why these rumors, and not others, took root in black culture across the US; how they got started; and what they represent to even well-educated, well-informed African-Americans.

Like ancient myths warning about the powers of nature, she says, rumors that the Ku Klux Klan owns a popular fried-chicken chain and has inserted an ingredient that will sterilize black men remind African-Americans that they live in a white society still hostile to blacks. The author traces the idea that whites are bent on physically destroying blacks back to Africa and the slave trade, during which many Africans believed they were being transported across the ocean in order to be eaten. The brutality of slave life, then of white supremacist oppression, and, today, of incidents like the Rodney King beating stir those early fears, handed down in family stories and fanned by rumor. Why domestic fried chicken and not some vague international conspiracy? Because, says Turner, an individual can take action against danger by boycotting a fried-chicken chain, but a nebulous conspiracy is beyond personal control.

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I Heard It Through the Grapevine
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