African American Culture in a Modern American Dominant Sociology

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African American Culture in a Modern American Dominant Sociology Intro to Sociology
September 3, 2010
Janice Caparro

African American culture in the United States refers to the cultural contributions of Americans African descent to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from American culture. The distinct identity of African American culture is rooted in the historical experience of the African American people. The culture is both distinct and enormously influential to American culture as a whole. African-American culture is rooted in Africa. It is a blend of chiefly sub-Saharan African and Sahelean cultures. Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of Americans of African descent to practice their cultural traditions, many practices, values, and beliefs survived and over time have modified or blended with European American culture. There are some facets of African American culture that were accentuated by the slavery period. The result is a unique and dynamic culture that has had and continues to have a profound impact on mainstream American culture. After emancipation, unique African-American traditions continued to flourish as distinctive traditions or radical innovations in music, art, literature, religion, cuisine, and other fields. Twentieth-century sociologists, such as Gunnar Myrdal, believed that African Americans had lost most cultural ties with Africa. Melville Herskovits and others researched using anthropological field and demonstrated that there has been a continuum of African traditions among Africans of the Diaspora. The greatest influence of African cultural practices on European culture is found below the Mason-Dixon in the American South. For many years, African-American culture developed separately from mainstream American culture, because of slavery and the persistence of racial discrimination in America, as well as African-American slave descendants' desire to create and maintain their own traditions. Today, African-American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct cultural body. In the earliest days of American slavery in the 17th century, slave owners sought to exercise control over their slaves by attempting to strip them of their African culture. The physical isolation and societal marginalization of African slaves and later of their free progeny however facilitated the retention of significant elements of traditional culture among Africans in the New World generally, and in the U.S. in particular. Slave owners deliberately tried to repress independent political or cultural organization in order to deal with the many slave rebellions or acts of resistance that took place in the southern United States, Brazil, Haiti, and the Dutch Guyanas. African cultures, slavery, slave rebellions, and the civil rights movements have shaped African-American religious, familial, political, and economic behaviors. The imprint of Africa is evident in myriad ways, in politics, economics, language, music, hairstyles, fashion, dance, religion, cuisine, and worldview. In the United States, the legislation that denied slaves formal education was to contribute to them maintaining a strong oral tradition. In turn, African American culture has had a pervasive, transformative impact on many elements of the mainstream American culture. This process of mutual creative exchange is called, creolization. Over time, the culture of African slaves and their descendants’ existent in its impact on not only the dominant American culture, but on world culture as well. Slaveholders limited or prohibited education of enslaved African Americans because they feared it might empower their chattel and inspire or enable emancipator ambitions. Hence, African-based oral traditions became the primary means of preserving history, morals, and other cultural information among the people. This was consistent with the great practices of oral history in...
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