African American Vernacular

Topics: African American, Slavery in the United States, African American culture Pages: 3 (1239 words) Published: October 28, 2013

September 28, 2013

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of vernacular is “of, relating to, or being a nonstandard language or dialect of a place, region, or country.” In terms of African American history, the evolution of vernacular is very important and a very unique part of the culture. The African American vernacular has aided the development of a distinct culture in terms of what African Americans were subjected to from the installation of slavery. The African American vernacular was used as a way to expose the atrocities that African Americans were imperiled to through songs and language. “Go down Moses ,” a spiritual and “Strange Fruit,” performed by Billie Holiday are two songs that represent the vernacular of African American culture. “Go down Moses,” was a song that had a Christian religious theme that spoke of the Israelites being enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt’s land. Spirituals had ambiguous meanings that included a reverence for Christianity and a desire to be free from the bondages of slavery. “Strange Fruit” was a song originally written as a poem that exposed racism against African American and called for a social change. Although they bear some similarities, the differences between “Go down Moses” and “Strange Fruit” include setting, meaning and cultural impact.   According to The Norton Anthology of African American Literature by Henry Louis-Gates Jr, Spirituals were a very important part of African American culture during the time of slavery. And still are today, although they are widely known as gospels. Spirituals have a Christian religious theme and are usually performed a cappella with a single melody. (Gates Jr, 2003) African American Spirituals are the predecessor to the blues, gospels, jazz and rap/hip-hop. Spirituals are also referred to as Negro spirituals, Black spirituals, folk songs and jubilees. Spirituals were sung to provide comfort and ease the pain of the harsh daily tasks that slaves were...
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