African Culture

Continuing Tradition, The Struggle For African Culture In America

African-Americans as they are now known as, were originally pulled from their
homelands, disconnecting them from all that they once knew. One way to remember
their ancestors and the ways that they were brought up was to keep their culture
alive in this new land. It freed them from the daily torture from their masters,
healed them from their ailments, as well as entertained themselves and the white
families. African-Americans kept folktales, music, religion, and various
spiritual practices alive while they were indentured here in the new lands.
Their African traditions gave them self-respect, hope, and a sense of community
in their solitude (AP, 346). For almost two and a half centuries
Africans-Americans were in servitude to their white oppressors. During this
period, African cultures were slowly mixed with the English traditions, forming
something new and distinctive (RTAP, 142). Many religious songs are still heard
in black churches today, and various customs are still practiced (RTAP, 152).

Even English-American traditions changed and adapted slightly to African
cultural traditions. Many slaves would entertain their owner’s children with
folktales and songs, often white folklorists would come and record the evenings
festivities (RTAP, 146). Famous children’s games such as “Ring Around The
Rosie” originated from African games (RTAP, 152). Most of these folklores and
songs have been found to originate from Africa (RTAP, 146). Much folklore told
both in Africa and America, had the same purposes: entertainment, prevention of
youth promiscuity, teaching cooperation values, and the behavior of animals.
Countless tales helped slaves cope with bondage, using characters to outwit
their masters and free themselves from servitude (RTAP, 148). Br’er Rabbit was
one such character (RTAP, 162), he tricked his enemy into throwing into the
briar patch, “The place where I was born”, he would say (AP, 352). But the
briar patch was filled with thorns and roots, was this a reference to Africa or
to slavery in America or neither?

The slave practice of teaching songs and folklore remained an oral tradition
for many years, due to the ban on educating blacks (RTAP, 149). Some slave
children were fortunate in the chance of being educated. Many slave owner’s
children would come home from their daily lessons and teach the slave children
to read and write, while hiding in a remote part of the forest. Many slave
owners thought that if they taught the slaves to read and write then the slaves
would learn to think for themselves and maybe even rebel (RTAP, 163).

Overall, without slavery and African traditions, America would be a dull
replica of Europe. America altered food, music, religion, sexual restraint, and
literature through learning the African culture. Slaves helped American settlers
develop their own traditions and sense of independence (RTAP, 158).

From: "Retreiving The American Past"

2001

Category: History