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Slave Hollers

By | March 2013
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Roger Longfell
Professor Lederdeck
MUS 201
2/20/13

Slave Hollers
Field Hollers were first developed in the cotton and rice fields of the American slavery era. They were desired for their familiarity with rice cultivation. It was founded in South Carolina’s Waccamaw plantation district during the eighteenth century. Low Country slaves cleared plantation land similar to their home country of Africa.

In an attempt to meet the overseer's rigorous demands, slaves continued efficient African practices of harvesting when they came to America. Field Hollers emerged from what the African’s previously used to fuel productivity. Most importantly Field Hollers enforce cooperative work and help numb the mental pain of their bondage. Slaves sang group work songs that we call Field Hollers today.

Similar to spirituals, field hollers followed a model of call and response. It began with one of the more respected field hands leading the workers in a song. The others responded in sync with the rhythmic tone of the call. The task at hand determined the tempo of the song and the pace in which they worked.

Most commonly, slaves born in Africa sung songs that remind them of their homeland. American born slaves were considered African-American because of their African roots. African-American sung about the hardships of enslavement mainly because many were born and raised in enslavement.

This theme can now be seen in the lyrics of blues songs, a form that developed at the turn of the 20th Century. Blues incorporated both the rhythmic patterns of field hollers and their subject matter to form its unique sound

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