African Heritage and Oral Tradition

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African Heritage & Oral Tradition

In Crawford’s discussion on African heritage and oral tradition, we learn that America has been widely influenced by the African cultural tradition that has been passed on through generations. While the original source of African rituals and common practices may have been lost over the centuries, the African oral tradition has preserved the culture of African people in America. As we see in the film, The Language We Cry In, one song being passed down from generation to generation was a powerful force to bridge the gap between two very different times in the history of African culture. As I reflect on the role of oral tradition in African-American culture, I recognize that it allowed both a physical and spiritual reconnection to the heritage of Africa, and believe oral tradition was the cornerstone to the rise of an identity for Africans in America. Africans were brought to America as slaves, being stripped of their freedom and their cultural identity. Crawford describes the African slaves as “not a relative but an absolute state that permitted no freedom… assumed a hereditary process in which the offspring of slaves were slaves themselves” (pg. 102). There was no future outside of the walls of servitude to the “white” Americans. Despite the inferiority they faced, the African slaves were able to experience a sense of community through their similar cultural expressions of musical practices. For Africans, music was, and continues to be, about being spontaneous, improvising with both song and dance. Crawford describes three key points that exist in all African music: oral transmission, physical movement, and responsorial practice. This musical background and culture was foreign to the Westerners, who were much more solid and rigid in their musical practices. However, Africans continued to spread their oral traditions through the decades, influencing religious practices with more charismatic musical styles...
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