Roger D. Abrahams

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Roger D. Abrahams (born June 12, 1933) is a prominent folklorist whose work focuses on the expressive cultures and cultural histories of the Americas, with a specific emphasis on African American peoples and traditions. He is the Hum Rosen Professor of Humanities, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught in the Department of Folklore and Folklife. He is the author of a large number of books, among which Everyday Life: A Poetics of Vernacular Practices is a recent title.[1]

Having earned his Ph.D. there, Abrahams returned to the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 after teaching previously at the University of Texas and at Scripps College and Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He was the founding Director of Penn's Center for Folklore and Ethnography, a research and public outreach unit associated with the Department of Folklore and Folklife.[2] He was awarded the Kenneth Goldstein Award for Lifetime Academic Leadership by the American Folklore Society (AFS) in 2005.[3] and is also an AFS Fellow.[4]

Roger D. Abrahams is an accomplished folklorist and author.

Education and career[edit]

Abrahams was one of three children born to Robert D. Abrahams and Florence Kohn Abrahams, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His education includes Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where he obtained a B.A. with Honors in English in 1955; Columbia University in New York, where he obtained a M.A. with Honors in Literature and Folklore in 1959; and University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a Ph.D. in Literature and Folklore in 1961.

Abrahams' long and successful career began almost immediately after attaining his Ph.D., first serving at the University of Texas as instructor (1960–63), assistant professor (1963–66), and then associate professor (1966–69) in the Department of English. He became a full professor in 1969 in the departments of English and Anthropology and remained there for ten years. While serving as professor, Abrahams also held other prestigious positions while teaching at the university. In 1968, he served as University’s Associate Director for the Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore and Oral History for two years. In 1974, he became the department’s chairman at the university for five years. He also taught at other universities. After teaching in Texas, he served as the Alexander H. Kenan Professor of Humanities and Anthropology at Scripps and Pitzer Colleges in Claremont, California, where he remained for six years. After this position, he returned to the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught Folklore and Folklife until his retirement in 2002 and was named the Hum Rosen Professor of Folklore and Folklife.

Abrahams lists of publications and exhibits are extensive. He published 21 books and monographs, 60 book chapters and introductions, 64 scholarly articles, 10 review articles. He was also published in eight magazine articles, six encyclopedia and handbook entries, 25 “notes” sections, and as many as 55 reviews of his work were published by other authors. He published such texts as Everyday Life: A Poetics of Vernacular Practices (2005), The Man-of-Words in the West Indies: Performance and Emergence of Creole Culture (1983), Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul, coauthored with Nick Spitzer, John Szwed, and Bob Thomson (2006); and And Other Neighborly Names: Social Process and Cultural Image in Texas Folklore, coauthored with Richard Bauman (2011). Most of Abrahams' texts were dedicated to his study of African-American and Caribbean culture. Most notable were African Folktales (1983), African-American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World (1999), After Africa and Singing the Master: The Emergence of African-American Culture in the Plantation South (1992). All of these text and the multiple scholarly articles published in journals such as Western Folklore, Folk Music Journal, and Journal of Folklore Research included his many research interests, which were, but are not limited to folksongs and ballads from various cultures, numerous forms of African-American folklore, West Indian folklore, riddle study, proverbs, children’s folklore, and festival and ritual.

Abrahams served as president of the Journal of American Folklore (1979), and he continues to influence students by his participation in conferences, seminars, guest lecturerships, and visiting faculty all around the world. Although he retired from teaching in 2002, he continues to publish articles and books. Abrahams career has been rich with accomplishments; his knowledge and expertise will be felt by generations to come.


  1. ^ Roger D. Abrahams (2005) Everyday Life: A Poetics of Vernacular Practices. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  2. ^ "Past Directors of the Center for Folklore & Ethnography", accessed December 23, 2009.
  3. ^ Kenneth Goldstein Award for Lifetime Academic Leadership, American Folklore Society; accessed July 9, 2015.
  4. ^ Fellows of the American Folklore Society, AFS; accessed July 9, 2015.

Wilk, Richard. "Biographies: Roger D. Abrahams". Indiana University. Published May 2, 2006, and accessed March 24, 2013.

External links[edit]