The Major Socio-Cultural Experiences of African Americans

Topics: Black people, Slavery, African American Pages: 12 (4602 words) Published: October 19, 2007
Running Head: Socio-Cultural Experience

The Major Socio-Cultural Experiences of African Americans

African Americans make up 13% of the population in the United States, but most of these people did not migrate here on their own accord. This is where a lot of their African culture was destroyed. Most was lost through the enslavement of African people and the systems of social policy's in place, historically and today, that continue suppress African tradition and culture from the African Americans. Much of African American's African culture was lucky to survive as well as it did with all of the hardships forced on them from the European Americans. Much of this comes from centuries of African enslavement masters trying to destroy all African culture in order to create a more efficient workforce. Despite these hardships African Americans have preserved some of their African culture and throughout the years have created their own unique African based culture that they share today. Very little is clearly known about the history and culture of the West African region prior to the Ghana Empire in about the 800s (Mokhtar 380.) The Ghana Empire came to power by dominating the local tribes around them, and soon was able to establish cities and trade routes throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Their economy was based on trading gold and salt (Mokhtar 396); trade from Ghana was one of the main sources of gold for the Middle East (Mckissak 38). Ghana also produced the earliest examples of a unique West African culture; their economic wealth and stability allowed for the creation of an artisan class, as well as an educated class. The Ghana built a center of learning at Timbuktu, which eventually rivaled the major universities of Europe at the time, both in size and scope of study (Miner, 64). The Ghana also produced a style of visual art and sculpture that has become identified with the West African region to this day. Their forms of visual art included wood carvings, but the Ghana focused mainly on gold sculptures, gold being so common in the area (Mokhtar 422). The Ghana also studied music; instruments such as the Djimbe drum and banjo have their origins here. Their studies of music, using a basic three chord structure on a minor pentatonic scale and an offbeat rhythm pattern form the basis for West African music, as well as providing the basis for the African American musical style known as the Blues (Charters, 19). The Ghana Empire faded between the 1100s and 1400s, replaced briefly by inter-tribal warfare until a new group rose to dominance. Placing their capital at Timbuktu, the Mali Empire based their economy not just on plentiful gold, but also on the selling of enslaved people (McKissak 59). The Mali began an eastern slave trade with Muslim merchants; in the process, much of the area was converted from tribal religions to Islam. The art and architecture of the Mali reflects this change, showing a blending of Islamic and Ghana traditions (Niane 80). The Mali also expanded their trade routes to include Europeans; before the discovery of the New World much of the gold in Europe was supplied by the Mali (McKissak 60). The Mali Empire flourished until discovery of the Gold Coast by European explorers in the 1400s. Europeans traded guns to the Songhai, a minor coastal tribe, in exchange for gold and slaves. The Songhai initially traded their own societal misfits to the Europeans; criminals, debtors, religious heretics and the mentally ill were forced into slavery. After being armed with guns, however, the Songhai invaded the Mali to the north, slowly conquering them and in the process gaining more slaves to trade (McKissak 83, Niane 237). Between 1500 and 1800, it is believed that around 15 and 30 million slaves were traded to Europeans by the Songhai (Craig 270). As you can see the African people were not enslaved without a fight. It took some 300 years to slowly break down these African Empires. Many battles were won by the...

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