About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for “The Annotated African American Folktales”

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m glad you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube.

But before we hear from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Maria Tatar (tah-TAR), and our moderator A’Lelia Bundles, I’d like to alert you to two other programs coming up this month.

On Thursday, January 18, at 7 p.m., we’ll show the Emmy Award–winning HBO documentary Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Based on the book of the same name, this 1987 film features actors and actresses reading actual letters home from men and women serving in the Vietnam War.

Then on Thursday, January 25, at 7 p.m., Erik B. Villard and a panel will discuss the Tet Offensive and Villard’s book, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, September 1967–October 1968. Former Senator Chuck Hagel will give keynote remarks, and a book signing will follow the program.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

And one more thing…. After tonight’s program, in the theater lobby, you’ll be able to buy copies of The Annotated African American Folktales and get them signed by the authors.

The largest single category of researchers using the National Archives is that pursuing family history. People visit our website and come in person to our research rooms here in Washington and across the country to examine our documents, searching for names, dates, and events to fill out their family stories. With every piece of evidence they find, they‘re building connections and enlarging communities. They may verify or discount some of the stories, but either way, the stories remain part of their family heritage because they have been repeated and handed down for generations.

Folktales—repeated and handed down for many, many generations—connect communities on a wider scale and convey lessons, warnings, and encouragement to the listeners.

Over the last few years, Professor Gates has tapped into the curiosity about where we come from in his PBS series Finding Your Roots. Now, he and Maria Tatar bring to the forefront a collection of the shared folktales from the African and African American tradition.

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Let’s hear from tonight’s panelists about The Annotated African American Folktales.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. An Emmy Award–winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored 21 books and created 15 documentary films. Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy television series, is now in its third season on PBS.

Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Tatar has written for the New York Times, The New Republic, and the Harvard Crimson. Her work has been featured on the Today Show and in Harvard Magazine.

A’Lelia Bundles, author and journalist, is working on her fifth book, The Joy Goddess of Harlem: A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance, a biography of her great-grandmother, whose parties, friendships, international travels, and arts patronage helped define the era. A’Lelia was a network television news executive and producer for 30 years at NBC News and then at ABC News, where she was Washington, DC, deputy bureau chief. At the end of last year, A’Lelia stepped down after six years as chair of the National Archives Foundation board of directors. Thank you, A’Lelia, for your service, dedication, and continued enthusiasm on behalf of the National Archives.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming A’Lelia Bundles, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar.