HAROLD COURLANDER PAPERS

de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
The University of Southern Mississippi


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Creator: Harold Courlander
Title: Harold Courlander Papers
Dates: 1950-1986
Dates: [bulk 1950-1974]
Quantity: .60 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Identification: DG0227

Abstract: The Harold Courlander Papers contain material written for five non-fiction works of collected folk tales from Africa, Haiti, Indonesia, and the United States, as well as a work of fiction based on Ethiopian folklore. It also includes one original work based on Ethiopian folklore as well as letters sent from the author to the de Grummond Collection.

Biographical Note

Harold Courlander was born in Indianapolis in 1908 but moved to Detroit when he was six. He later claimed that his interest in other nationalities and cultures probably resulted from the multicultural climate of his Detroit neighborhoods. He lived near Polish and black sections of town, and German Lutherans ran an orphanage across the street from his school. Courlander received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1931 and did graduate work at Michigan and Columbia. After trying his hand at farming from 1933 until 1938, he worked for radio's Voice of America as an editor, writer and information chief. During World War II he supervised news and feature reports for the Office of War Information in Bombay. After the war he worked as a Douglas Aircraft Corporation historian, United Nations press officer, and press officer with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

On his travels and through research grants, Courlander pursued his interest in ethnohistory and folklore by collecting stories, making recordings, and writing books and articles about a variety of African and African diaspora cultures. The result of his travels and studies was the publication of more than thirty-five books and many sound recordings of the rich and varied musical and story traditions of African, African-American, Caribbean, Indonesian, and Native American cultures. His best-known collection of stories is The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories (1947), co-written with George Herzog, which was a Newbery Honor Book in 1948. Other African folktales include The Hat-Shaking Dance and Other Tales from the Gold Coast (1957), The King's Drum and Other African Stories (1962), and Olode the Hunter and Other Tales From Nigeria (1968). He also wrote one original story, The Son of the Leopard (1974), based on an Ethiopian legend of a man who is shunned and cast out of his village. Kantchil's Lime Pit, and Other Stories from Indonesia (1950) represents the author's venture into Asian folklore. He wrote several authoritative storybooks and non-fiction works about Haiti, including Uncle Bouqui of Haiti (1942), The Piece of Fire and Other Haitian Tales (1962), and The Drum and the Hoe (1960). Hopi Indian culture was recorded in The People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians (1970) and The Fourth World of the Hopis (1971). His best-known work on African-American music and folkways is Negro Folk Music U.S.A. (1963), while his Treasury of Afro-American Folklore (1976) chronicles the oral histories of the many different peoples of African descent in the Americas.

Courlander's career has not been without controversy. In 1977 he sued author Alex Haley, claiming that Haley's enormously popular book, Roots, plagiarized Courlander's own novel, The African. After several months in court, it was determined that several pages of Haley's novel quoted almost verbatim from The African. Haley claimed that the researchers who gave him the material in question had not cited any sources. Haley eventually settled out of court, awarding as much as $650,000 to Courlander.

Courlander died of emphysema in March 1996. Henry Holt and Company published his biography, A Voice For the People: The Life and Work of Harold Courlander, by Nina Jaffe, in 1997.

Sources:
Children's Books and Their Creators, p. 174
More Junior Authors, pp. 56-7
Something About the Author, v. 6, pp. 51-2; v. 88, pp. 50-1
http://www.ethnomusic. ucla.edu/archive/biocourlander.htm


Scope and Content Note

The Harold Courlander Papers contain material written for five non-fiction works of collected folk tales from Africa, Haiti, Indonesia, and the United States, as well as a work of fiction based on Ethiopian folklore. They also include one original work based on Ethiopian folklore as well as letters sent from the author to the de Grummond Collection.

The papers are organized into two series, letters sent, and books. The latter series is arranged in alphabetical order by book title. It includes original typescripts, carbon typescripts, proofs, galleys, and illustrations.

The Hat-Shaking Dance and Other Tales from the Gold Coast (1957) features stories from West Africa, particularly stories the Ashanti people. All folk tales of the Ashanti are known as Anansasem, which means 'spider tales'. Appropriately, most stories in this series feature Anansi, the trickster spider. The papers contain an early edited version of the work.

The only Asian folktales found in these papers come from Kantchil's Lime Pit and Other Stories from Indonesia (1950), illustrated by Robert Kane. The central character of many stories in this work is Kanchil, the tiny mouse deer, a small, defenseless forest creature whose wits keep him safe from danger. The papers include a later typescript of the work. Although the tales are in the same order as those of the book, several have different titles in the typescript than in the final book version.

Thirty short tales comprise The King's Drum and Other African Stories (1962), illustrated by Enrico Arno. The tales sample the folklore and customs of many sub-Saharan African peoples and regions. Found in these papers is what appears to be a final typescript, marked for publication. There are a few author notes, mostly to clarify the peoples or regions from which the stories derive. An advance proof is also included, marked for publication. There is question in the proof as to whether two of the illustrations accurately portray items in the text.

Native American culture is explored in The People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians (1970). Courlander gathered these legends directly from Hopi storytellers, but noted that tales varied depending on how each Hopi tribe told it. The papers contain a carbon typescript, with minor editing by the author. A galley of the book is also included, with editing marks plus some word correction by the author.

The Piece of Fire and Other Haitian Tales (1964) features twenty-six trickster tales, tall tales, and creation myths. Many stories feature Haiti's popular folk characters Uncle Bouqui and Ti Malice. In this collection is an edited typescript, marked for publication. Several quotes found in the final version of these tales were originally written in both French and English. The French quotations are marked out in this typescript. An advance proof with minor corrections is also included in the papers.

Unlike his other folklore collections, The Son of the Leopard (1974) is an original story, created by Courlander but based on the traditions and beliefs of western Ethiopia. It is the story of Wolde Nebri, or Son of the Leopard, who is shunned and eventually outcast from his people because of a prophecy given at his birth. Through his sorrow and a later prophecy, the Son of the Leopard discovers that victory lies within himself. The papers hold two typescripts of this work: an earlier carbon copy with some minor editing, and a later copy showing the corrections made.


Series and Subseries

A. Letters Sent (1966-1986)
B. Books (1950-1974)

The Hat-Shaking Dance and Other Tales from the Gold Coast (1957)

Kantchil's Lime Pit and Other Stories from Indonesia (1950)

The King's Drum and Other African Stories (1962)

People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians (1970)

The Piece of Fire and Other Haitian Tales (1964)

The Son of the Leopard (1974)


Restrictions

Restrictions on Use

Noncirculating; available for research.

Copyright Restrictions

The collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials, other than that noted above.


Related Material

For original illustrations of Kantchil's Lime Pit and Other Stories from Indonesia and The Fire on the Mountain and Other Ethiopian Tales, see Robert W. Kane Papers (DG0531).


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

(Identify the item and cite the series), Harold Courlander Papers, de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

Provenance

These papers were donated to the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection of the University of Southern Mississippi by Harold Courlander between 1966 and 1986.

Processing Information

Processed by C. Alder, October 2001. Encoded into EAD Version 1.0 by Danielle L. Bishop. This finding aid is the product of a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Container Listing

Box/Folder

.

Letters Sent

1/1Letters sent from Courlander to the de Grummond Collection, 1966-1986, (4 items.)



.

Books

The Hat-Shaking Dance and Other Tales from the Gold Coast by Harold Courlander with Albert Kofi Prempeh, illustrated by Enrico Arno (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1957).
1/2Early typescript, edited (83 pp.)
Kantchil's Lime Pit and Other Stories from Indonesia by Harold Courlander, illustrated by Robert W. Kane (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1979).
1/3Typescript, (pp. 1-49.)
1/4Typescript, (pp. 50-97.)
The King's Drum and Other African Stories by Harold Courlander, illustrated by Enrico Arno (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1962).
1/5Typescript, edited, marked for printing, (pp. 1-59b.)
1/6Typescript, edited, marked for printing, (pp. 60-111.)
1/7Spiral-bound advance proofs with final illustrations, edited.
1/8Final illustrations (reproductions), (18 items.)
The People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians by Harold Courlander, illustrated by Enrico Arno (New York: Harcourt Brace Janovich, Inc., 1970).
2/1Carbon typescript, minor editing, (pp. 1-49.)
2/2Carbon typescript, minor editing, (pp. 50-110.)
2/3Carbon typescript, minor editing, (pp. 111-178.)
2/4Galley, corrected, (87 pp.)
2/5Illustrations (reproductions), (12 items.)
The Piece of Fire and Other Haitian Tales by Harold Courlander, illustrations by Beth and Joe Krush (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1964).
2/6Typescript, minor editing, marked for printing, (pp. 1-59.)
2/7Typescript, minor editing, marked for printing, (pp. 60-117.)
2/8Spiral-bound advance proof, minor editing.
The Son of the Leopard by Harold Courlander, woodcuts by Rocco Negri (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974).
2/9Early typescript, (45 pp.)
2/10Later typescript, (45 pp.)

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