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Alternate Activity 2: Ethic of Affirmation and Resistance in Folk Tales (30 minutes), Workshop 8: Understanding Ethics from the Margins

In "What We Choose: Ethics for Unitarian Universalists," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Stories to read aloud, chosen from options in Preparation for Activity
  • Optional: Computer, with speakers if available, with Internet connection

Preparation for Activity

  • Purchase folk tale books or borrow from a library, choosing one of these:
  • Select two or three stories to share with the group. Practice reading them aloud. Alternatively, invite a participant to prepare to read the stories.
  • Optional: Listen to the audio clip (6:45) of Ruby Dee reading from Hurston's Mules and Men, on the Zora Neale Hurston website. Hurston tells how she came to collect African American folklore and its role in the community. Set up the computer, and speakers if you have them, so you can share the clip.

Description of Activity


Along with being a novelist, Zora Neale Hurston was a formally trained anthropologist. As part of her Ph.D. work at Columbia University, she collected folk tales and African American wisdom had been passed from generation to generation. These tales, which date back to the time of slavery, illustrate an ethical system that lifts up survival, identity, and dignity of the marginalized.

Read aloud the story(ies) you have chosen. Follow each story with a discussion of these questions:

  • What wisdom does this tale transmit?
  • How does the wisdom in this tale affirm life, dignity, and identity for those who are powerless?
  • How does it demonstrate an ethic of resistance?
  • What strikes you about this story, when you read it as an example of ethics from the margins?

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Last updated on Thursday, January 26, 2012.

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