Julia (Mood) Peterkin Welbourn Kelley - Essay

Welbourn Kelley

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

All good South Carolinians have three salient characteristics: they believe that theirs is the last home of true Southern chivalry and aristocracy, they think that Ambrose Gonzales was the greatest writer of regional literature who ever lived, and they love and respect Julia Peterkin. (p. 377)

In her latest book ["Roll, Jordon, Roll"], a romantic ethnology of the Gullah Negro …, Mrs. Peterkin bids for a place beside Gonzales in the critical esteem of her own State…. Mrs. Peterkin has softened her Gullah dialect in order that people not fortunate enough to have been born in the State could understand her stories. (pp. 377, 382)

In "Roll, Jordan, Roll," Mrs. Peterkin uses little dialect, yet her artistry is such that the Gullah Negro's lazy chatter, rhythmic movement, low-down blues, or hysterical prayer is on every page. Her method is this: she knows the Negro men, women, and children who live about her, and she tells their stories for them with such sympathy and understanding that one often forgets the presence of the author and believes he is hearing the stories from the Negroes' own lips….

[The] chapters flow on, each one adding to the ethnological pattern of how a Gullah Negro is born, what he eats, drinks, and thinks, how he lives, loves, marries, works, and dies. (p. 382)

Welbourn Kelley, "Plantation Lore," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. X, No. 24, December 30, 1933, pp. 377, 382.