Known in his South Carolina hometown for cofounding the State newspaper in Columbia with his brother, Ambrose Gonzales (1857-1926) had another passion that occupied him. Born to a former Cuban rebel and a wealthy planter's daughter, Gonzales developed an interest in linguistics somewhat late in his life. His studies of the Gullah Creole dialect prompted the author to pen this original collection of tales.
Though born to a comfortable life, Gonzales did not escape hardship. Indeed, the much-publicized and tragic murder of his beloved brother over a political scuffle must have been devastating. Perhaps this tragedy led Gonzales to throw himself into such diligent work. His frustration with the general public's limited knowledge of Carolina Low Country dialects and the tendency of scholars to leave out certain components of the language prompted Gonzales to collect these stories.
The inadequacies of literature concerning the Gullah dialect in particular provided motivation. Inspired by what he calls the “new and peculiar application of words” that characterizes Gullah, the determined Gonzales set out to record the spoken language as accurately as possible. He believed that, with all their nuances, his stories provide “the most authentic record of Negro myths on the continent.” In his 1922 foreword to The Black Border, Gonzales admits that his glossary is “perhaps the only extensive vocabulary of Gullah that has yet been compiled.”
In addition to this collection, Gonzales has also composed a book of Gullah fables, With Aesop along the Black Border, which was published in 1924.
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