"They Want EFX": Centering the Roles of Black Language and Literacy
In this theme, we will be reading from a variety of texts that offer critical perspectives on the history of Black language.
Books and essays like Geneva Smitherman's Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner, Clarence Major's From Juba to Jive, J. Dillard's Lexicon of Black English, Zora Neale Hurston's "Glossary of Harlem Slang," and Cab Calloway's "Hepster's Dictionary" show us that as far back as 1939, Black musicians, writers, and scholars have chronicled how even the very vocabulary words that African Americans use are different. These collections are unique gifts in that they offer us Black-designed expressions and words that have traveled across the U.S. and across time for unique communicative purposes.
As we dive into sociolinguistics and Black Language (BL), we need to keep in mind loaded terms like: language, power, social stratification, hegemony, power, ideology, white privilege, race as a social construct, racism. We need some common languaging tools as well as a sociohistorical knowledge base before we can investigate Black Language (BL).
The soundtrack for this page comes from Das Efx’s 1992 album, “Dead Serious.” This song represents a style called “flipping the tongue” that showcases the MC's dexterity with the movement and enunciation of sound and words. It is often hailed as the best rhyme to practice and improve your pronunciation and delivery.
The components of theme 2: