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So confused with this sentence.

It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves and in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found.

Can I change the sentence like this?

It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves.And it is in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found.

But then what does the first sentence ('It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves') mean?Seems make no sense.

Or is it like this?

It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found. And it is in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found.

Still, is 'tales occupied' here grammatically right? Why 'occupied'? Should it be like 'tales occupy'? Also,is 'slaves derived from them' grammatically right? Should it be like 'derived by slaves from them',instead?

Here is the context.

Extended debate concerning the exact point of origin of individual folktales told by Afro-American slaves has unfortunately taken precedence over analysis of the tales’ meaning and function. Cultural continuities with Africa were not dependent on importation and perpetuation of specific folktales in their pristine form. It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves and in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found. Afro-American slaves did not borrow tales indiscriminately from the Whites among whom they lived. Black people were most influenced by those Euro-American tales whose functional meaning and aesthetic appeal had the greatest similarity to the tales with deep roots in their ancestral homeland. Regardless of where slave tales came from, the essential point is that, with respect to language, delivery, details of characterization, and plot, slaves quickly made them their own.

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It is in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves and in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found.

Reworded without the cleft:

The clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves and in the meaning slaves derived from them.

The resemblances are found

a) in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves

and

b) in the meaning the slaves derived from them (the tales).

Tales occupied a place in the lives of the slaves. When referring to that place we can say:

...the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves.

place is figurative, since "lives" are not spatial. place they occupied is analogous to role they played.

The clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found in the role that tales played in the lives of the slaves and in the meaning slaves derived from them.

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    Oh,they are past tense!I have misunderstood them ('occupied' and 'derived') as participles.Thanks a lot! – dubina Aug 30 '18 at 17:25
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    Actually,'place' was also my problem.Thanks a lot!! – dubina Aug 30 '18 at 17:27
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I shall limit my answer to clarifying two structural points without going into the specifics of the grammar:

It is 1) in the place that tales occupied in the lives of the slaves and 2) in the meaning slaves derived from them that the clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found.

Tales occupied a place in the lives of slaves.

Slaves derived meaning from those tales.

The clearest resemblances to African tradition can be found in 1) and 2).

So, where were the clearest resemblances found?

They were found: 1) in the place that tales occupied in the lives of slaves and 2) in the meaning slaves derived from them.

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