Hurston receives funding to record African American folktales, so she returns to Eatonville, Florida and asks old friends and makes new ones who tell her their stories. Many of these tales predate slavery, and a few include specific accounts about the storyteller's life. For the most part, the slave narratives feature a slave named John who cleverly overcomes his master and finds freedom or satisfaction of some kind. One character actually kills the devil and is denied access to both heaven and hell.
As she travels through Florida, Hurston keeps recording her adventures. She notes how one story pulls her into the next, their narrators possessing some similarity. In order to meet people, she frequents a lot of local bars. Once she even gets caught up in a brawl. There's always a story to be had in the affair, however, so it's worthwhile.
In New Orleans, Hurston becomes an apprentice to several different hoodoo practitioners at various points. As a function of African American culture, these people practice spiritual traditions which mix Native American, West African, and even some European elements. Hurston picks up more stories in this business, mostly ghost stories. One that stands out is about a black man who employs witchcraft to avenge his child who was killed by a white planter.