African American Culture - 2

Topics: African American, African American culture, United States Pages: 21 (6886 words) Published: October 21, 2012
African American culture

African American culture in the United States includes the various cultural traditions of African ethnic groups. It is both part of and distinct from American culture. The U.S. Census Bureau defines African Americans as "people having origins in any of the Black race groups of Africa."[1] African American culture is indigenous to the descendants in the U.S. of survivors of the Middle Passage. It is rooted in Africa and is an amalgam of chiefly sub-Saharan African and Sahelean cultures. Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of Africans in America to practice their cultural traditions, many practices, values and beliefs survived and over time have incorporated elements of European American culture. There are even certain facets of African American culture that were brought into being or made more prominent as a result of slavery; an example of this is how drumming became used as a means of communication and establishing a community identity during that time. The result is a dynamic, creative culture that has had and continues to have a profound impact on mainstream American culture and on world culture as well. After Emancipation, these uniquely African American traditions continued to grow. They developed into distinctive traditions in music, art, literature, religion, food, holidays, amongst others. While for some time sociologists, such as Gunnar Myrdal and Patrick Moynihan, believed that African Americans had lost most cultural ties with Africa, anthropological field research by Melville Hersovits and others demonstrated that there is a continuum of African traditions among Africans in the New World from the West Indies to the United States. The greatest influence of African cultural practices on European cultures is found below the Mason-Dixon in the southeastern United States, especially in the Carolinas among the Gullah people and in Louisiana. African American culture often developed separately from mainstream American culture because of African Americans' desire to practice their own traditions, as well as the persistence of racial segregation in America. Consequently African American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct culture apart from it.


From the earliest days of slavery, 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, actually 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 political organization in order to deal with the many slave rebellions that took place in the southern United States, Brazil, Haiti, and the Dutch Guyanas. African cultures,slavery,slave rebellions,and the civil rights movements(circa 1800s-160s)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 and worldview, and food preparation methods. In the United States, the very legislation that was designed to strip slaves of culture and deny them education served in many ways to strengthen it. In turn, African American culture has had a pervasive, transformative impact on myriad elements of mainstream American culture, among them language, music, dance, religion, cuisine, and agriculture. This process of mutual creative exchange is called creolization. Over time, the culture of African slaves and their descendants has been ubiquitous in its impact on not only the dominant American culture, but on world culture as well.

Oral tradition

Slaveholders limited or prohibited education of enslaved African Americans because they believed it might lead to...
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