William Hawthorne Wiggins, Jr.

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Archives

African American Folklorist

William Hawthorne Wiggins, Jr.

(1934–2016)

Dr. Bill Wiggins was an academic and public folklorist, a teacher, an advisor, a mentor, an ordained CME minister/former professor of religion, and an amateur athlete/sports enthusiast/scholar. Born in Port Allen, LA and raised in Louisville, KY, he earned a BA in pre-theology from Ohio Wesleyan University and then several degrees including an MA in theology. In 1969, he began a PhD program in folklore at Indiana University and simultaneously joined the faculty of the Afro-American Studies program at IU as one of its founding faculty members, teaching there for over 34 years. He also served as interim chair of his department and the Dean of African American Affairs. When he completed his doctorate, he became the first African American male to have earned a PhD in folklore studies at IU.

During his illustrious career, Dr. Wiggins earned numerous prestigious scholarly awards including recognition as a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Ford Foundation Fellow. He researched and selected performers from Africa and the Caribbean as a founding researcher for the new African Diaspora Program of the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in 1974–76. He also co-founded the Association of African and African American Folklorists (AAAAF) and hosted one of its early conferences. Dr. Wiggins’ groundbreaking scholarship in African American folklore ranged from literary analysis of the novels of John Killens to the study of celebration, sacred pageants and sports through a variety of media: books, catalogs, scholarly articles, exhibitions, public presentations and film. His publications include:

In the Rapture (1977)

Rapture Family (1977)

O Freedom! Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations (1987)

Joe Louis: American Folk Hero (1991)

Phyllis May-Machunda

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1971. “Jack Johnson as Bad Nigger: The Folklore of his Life.” The Black Scholar. Vol. 2, No. 5, BLACK LITERATURE (January 1971), pp. 34-46.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1971. “Black Folktales in the Novels of John O. Killens.” The Black Scholar. Vol. 3, No. 3, THE BLACK ATHLETE (November 1971), pp. 50-58. Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1972. Pastime poems (sacred to secular). Bridgetown Letchworth Press.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1973. “THE TRICKSTER AS LITERARY HERO: CECIL BROWN’S ‘THE LIFE AND LOVES OF MR. JIVEASS NIGGER’.” New York Folklore Quarterly. Cooperstown, N.Y. Vol. 29, Iss. 4,  (Dec 1, 1973): 269.

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1974. “‘Lift Every Voice’: a Study of Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations.” Journale of Asian and African Studies. Volume 9: Issue 3-4.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1974. “In the Rapture.” African Diaspora.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1974. “‘Free at last’: a study of Afro-American Emancipation Day celebrations.” 2 v. : ill., facs., maps, ports.Thesis (Ph. D.)–Indiana University, 1974.

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1976. In the Rapture. Available on Folkstreams. Produced by: Margerine Hatcher and William Hatcher and The Indiana University Afro-American Arts Institute.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1976. Rapture Family. Available on Folkstreams. Produced by: Margerine Hatcher and William Hatcher and The Indiana University Afro-American Arts Institute.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1978. “‘In The Rapture’: The Black Aesthetic and Folk Drama”. Callaloo. No. 2 (Feb., 1978), pp. 103-111.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1979. “January 1: The Afro-American’s ‘Day of Days’.” Prospects. Volume 4, October 1979 , pp. 331-353.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1979. The Black Sermon in Folklore. Deland, Fla.: Everett/Edwards.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1983. “The Black Folk Church.” in Handbook of American Folklore. ed. Richard M. Dorson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 145-154.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1987. O Freedom! Afro-American Emancipation Celebrations. The University of Tennessee Press. Knoxville.

“Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1987. Images of rap in music videos [videorecording] / Afro-American Studies. 1 videocassette : sd., col. ; 1/2 in. Performer, Panelists, Portia K. Maultsby, William Wiggins, Drew Smith.

“Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1988. “Boxing’s Sambo Twins: Racial Stereotypes in Jack Johnson and Joe Louis Newspaper Cartoons, 1908 to 1938.” Journal of Sport History. Vol. 15, No. 3, Special Issue: The Black Athlete in American Sport (Winter, 1988), pp. 242-254 (13 pages). Published by: University of Illinois Press. 

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1991. Joe Louis: American Folk Hero. Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation (June 1, 1991).  

“Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1991. “Pilgrims, Crosses, and Faith: The Folk Dimensions of Heaven Bound.” Black American Literature Forum. Vol. 25, No. 1, The Black Church and the Black Theatre (Spring, 1991), pp. 93-100 (8 pages). Published by: African American Review (St. Louis University). 

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1998. “Introduction.” Fraher, James. The blues is a feeling: voices & visions of African-American blues musicians. Mount Horeb, Wis.: Face to Face Books..  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 1993. Jubilation! African American Celebrations in the Southeast. co-edited with Doug DeNatale; University of South Carolina Press.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 2004. “Joe Louis: American Folk Hero.” in Sport and the color line: black athletes and race relations in twentieth-century America, Ed. Patrick B. Miller, and David K. Wiggin, New York: Routledge.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 2008. “Contemporary Heroes and Heroines Day.” The African American Lectionary. Sunday February 24, 2008. Lection Isaiah 42:1-7.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 2008. “Anti-Incarceration Day.” The African American Lectionary. Lection – Luke 4:14-30 (New Revised Standard Version).

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 2008. “Ash Wednesday.” The African American Lectionary. Wednesday, February 6, 2008.  

Wiggins, Jr., William Hawthorne. 2008. “Men’s Day.” The African American Lectionary. Wednesday, February 6, 2008.