High John the Conqueror—sometimes called simply High John or John—is a slave trickster who always outwits Old Master. Much like Greek slave Aesop's animal characters, High John was the subject of subversive narrative, whose mission was to outsmart his oppressors. Tales of High John flourished during slavery, but after emancipation they fell out of circulation and his antics were all but forgotten.
The sixteen stories in this collection are much-loved by young audiences--and prompted the formation ....
of at least one High John the Conqueror fan club. As the author acknowledges, “High John is the ultimate underdog. Kids relate to this directly, because all kids think they're the underdog.”
AWARDS ALA Notable Children's Book
IRA Young Adults' Choice
NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best
Parents' Choice What-Kids-Who-Don't-Like-to-Read-Like-to-Read Program
Selected for The Children's Catalog, 17th edition
The Multicultural Review
High John the conqueror was a figure in trickster stories told by Afican-American slaves; the sixteen stories in this collection illustrate moments in the life of this folk character. Among the stories included here are tales of High Joh the conqueror as a free man after Emancipation, when Old Master vanished, only to be replaced by Old Boss.
The 16 segments of this collection are filled with the laudable escapades of High John the Conqueror, a fellow about whom slaves told trickster stories (that somehow never reached the ears of white owners). In one tale, which vividly illustrates the truism "knowledge means power," John (who is determined to be the smartest slave on the plantation) sits under the kitchen window nightly, listening to Master and Missy's conversations. Each night Master outlines a different task John will be assigned the following day. When Master goes to inform John of the task, John either has the job underway or completed. Master, believing John to be omniscient, bets the plantation on the slave's ability. What follows that bet (and courses through all these stories) is a combination of remarkable folktelling with the ironic circumstances wrought by human beings making slaves of other human beings. A superior companion to Afro-American Folktales edited by Roger D. Abrahams.