The trickster tales suggested how the weak might outwit, deceive, or manipulate the strong. More broadly, they outlined the tactics and attributes necessary to cope with an irrational world where the good and the right did not generally prevail. They may have been escape valves for the pent-up frustration and bitterness of the slaves but they could also serve as cruel parodies of white society, exposing its pretension, hypocrisy, and injustice to ridicule.

There was an inevitable contradiction between the amoral strategy for survival recommended by the trickster tales and the standards and values taught by the moral tales or the spirituals. Religion, magic, folk beliefs, songs and spirituals, moral fables, and trickster tales were all part of the distinctive cultural style of the slaves. In particular, religion, family, and popular culture have been the focal points of the great outpouring of new work on the slave community since the 1970s. Blassingame has offered some intriguing speculations on status within the community. Those who were accorded higher status by the outside world–house servants, slave drivers, mulattoes–were often assigned a much humbler place by the inhabitants of the slave quarters. The slave community set its own standards, prizing above all loyalty and services performed for other slaves by, for example, preachers, conjurers, midwives, teachers, and in a different way, rebels. Occupations which took slaves away from the plantation or enabled them to earn money carried a certain prestige, and some special strength or skill–not least the cunning and resourcefulness to outwit the master or escape trouble–commanded a measure of respect in the community.