Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...
Tiffany M. Gill
Edward J. Rielly
In modern times, Black English vernacular is alternately referred to as African American vernacular English, Black English, inner-city English, Ebonics, or African American English, although the last term is sometimes used to indicate a broader category comprising closely related dialects. The precise origins of Black English vernacular remain unsettled and controversial.
The theory regarding the beginnings of Black English vernacular that dominated the first half of the twentieth century is sometimes referred to as the Anglicist hypothesis, so named because it identifies the origins of Black English with the origins of other American English dialects, namely British English. According to this theory, from the early seventeenth century on, slaves (the first of whom, technically indentured servants, were brought to Jamestown in 1619 arrived in the southern United States speaking a variety of West African languages including Hausa Ibo and Yoruba Slaves learned English though imperfectly from plantation overseers and ...
The Caribbean region is more often stereotyped and dismissed in Britain than taken seriously as a location for art production, and has only ever reached small audiences, despite some significant exhibitions and critical attention.
There is little consensus on what defines a coherent category of Caribbean art in terms of its geographical boundaries and cultural character and given its growing diaspora The region s Anglophone countries have contributed the most to art exhibitions staged in the United Kingdom the consequence of a shared colonial history and of migration Throughout the post Second World War period many artists from the Caribbean engaged in struggles for acceptance within the history of ...
Alice Ross and Mark H. Zanger
The Caribbean influence on American food has been continual for hundreds of years, initially in coastal areas of similar climate, from Texas to the Carolinas. The early Spanish involvement in the Caribbean brought Caribbean foods to Europe and Africa, from whence they quickly returned to North America. Spanish gold shipments attracted other Europeans to the area and brought about the colonization of eastern North America. Cheap Caribbean sugar, coffee, cocoa, and spices have influenced the palates and tables of all Americans. The peoples of the Caribbean islands have developed multicultural cuisines that have been affecting American cooking at all levels since colonial times.
Influence of the Caribbean on contemporary American food may predate Columbus, because there is some possibility that Caribbean Indians reached Florida and introduced tropical tubers, or chilies. The chain of influence began in 1492 as the varieties of maize beans chilies squash peanuts and cassava collected ...
Robert H. Gudmestad and Kathleen Thompson
[This entry contains two subentries dealing with dance from the early eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century The first article discusses the transmission of African dance traditions to North America by slaves and the new expressions that arose while the second article discusses the movement of ...
David N. Gellman
Throughout English colonial North America, African American slaves participated in rituals and celebrations that stitched together black communities while preserving a folk life rooted in African traditions. Eighteenth-century festivals often coincided with, and at least superficially mirrored, events staged by European colonists. Blacks sometimes invested their own cultural traditions so thoroughly into white holidays that festivals became known as distinct African American events.
African American festivals are much easier to document and describe in the North where the smaller slave population was dispersed among the European population than in the South where larger numbers of slaves were concentrated on plantations This disparity may reflect both the need and the ability of southern slaves to conceal their collective activities from masters Despite the severe constraints that typified slavery everywhere slaves up and down the coast of the North American mainland managed to find means to express their collective identity in joyous ...
Hilary Mac Austin
African American folklore is particularly rich in verbal art, as reflected in its folktales, legends, myths, jokes, and verbal contests. Unfortunately it is impossible to know precisely which tales and jokes were told by the earliest Africans in North America or how these tales and jokes changed through the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. White travelers are the earliest sources on the folklife of enslaved Africans, but in the United States these sources contain little actual lore. Far more common are references to the acuity of slave wit, or general descriptions of an only partially comprehended slave festival. In the nineteenth century, slave narratives and autobiographies contained important references, and in some cases specific tales. However, the formal collection of African American folktales did not truly begin until after Emancipation, most notably in the late-nineteenth-century Uncle Remus series by Joel Chandler Harris. Indeed, most of the stories in Roger ...
Caryn E. Neumann
The Gullahs were African Americans who settled in slave communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands; in Georgia these people were known as Geechees. Geographical isolation and strong community life permitted the Gullahs to preserve their African cultural heritage through their skills, language, arts, gestures, and foods.
The homeland of the Gullahs is a coastal strip about 250 miles long and 40 miles wide running through South Carolina and Georgia Low flat islands along the coast are separated from the mainland by saltwater streams This geographic isolation was combined with a steady influx of Africans and a relatively small population of whites to create a culture that was heavily African Even after the official ban on the importation of slaves blacks continued to be smuggled into the coastal areas thereby providing fresh reinforcements of African culture and customs With a higher ratio of Africans ...
Tiffany M. Gill
Controlling black people's bodies was at the center of racial-based slavery in colonial America. The productive and reproductive capabilities of Africans and African Americans were policed to meet the stringent demands of a plantation economy. Still, even within this oppressive environment, Africans and African Americans, enslaved and free, found ways to define themselves and assert a level of authority over their physical selves. One area in which slaves and free blacks demonstrated some autonomy over their bodies was in the way they chose to adorn themselves and style their hair. African Americans in the early years of their presence in the New World developed and sustained a vibrant and meaningful system of hair care and beautification rituals. These seemingly frivolous practices of personal adornment provided a way for African Americans to pay homage to their African heritage and reclaim their bodies outside slave labor and degrading wage labor.
Susan J. Covert and David McBride
[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the health and medical treatment of African Americans from the slavery era through the nineteenth century The first article focuses on the diseases and epidemics that affected Colonial America while the second article discusses progress in African American healthcare despite discrimination in ...
Steven J. Niven
, blacksmith and hero of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire, was born a slave at the Piping Tavern near the Pamunkey River in King William County, Virginia. The names of his parents are unknown, though his mother appears to have been a slave of the keeper of the Piping Tavern. What little is known of Hunt's life comes from a brief biographical sketch published in Richmond, Virginia, on the eve of the Civil War by Philip Barrett, a white journalist. A transcription of Hunt's reminiscences accounts for much of this sketch of the “meritorious old negro” (5), in which Barrett urges his fellow, predominantly white citizens of Richmond to be profoundly grateful for Hunt's long years of service to the community. Hunt, in Barrett's view, was a man of “high integrity” whose bearing and words betrayed his “true, generous-hearted, disinterestedness” (4).
Hunt arrived in Richmond in the first decade ...
Glenn Allen Knoblock
survivor of the battle of the Alamo, was a slave about whom little is known. He was living with his master in Harrisburg, Texas, in May 1833 and was sometimes rented out as a laborer. One man that rented him was a young lawyer named William Barret Travis. Having arrived in Texas in 1831, Travis was undoubtedly in need of hired help while establishing his law practice. He purchased Joe on 13 February 1834, while living in San Felipe. The time that Joe was owned by Travis, though short, came during the most legendary time in Texas history.
Joe's specific activities from 1834 to 1836 are unknown that Joe would remain a slave he likely knew well as his master was occupied during his first years in Texas working to gain the return of runaway slaves harbored at the Mexican garrison at Anahuac However Joe s ...
“steel-driving man” and legendary hero, may have been a historic person born a slave in Mississippi, Virginia, or some other Southern state. In ballad and legend he is simply “John Henry,” but “John Henry” is a common combination of given names, so Henry may not have been his surname.
Songs about John Henry were collected as early as 1905. In 1916 the former West Virginia governor W.-A. MacCorkle confused him with John Hardy, an African American gambler and murderer who was hanged in Welch, West Virginia, in 1894 and is the subject of his own ballad. By the mid-1920s the ballad “John Henry” was being recorded commercially by Riley Puckett (1924), Fiddlin' John Carson (1924), and other white “hillbilly” performers, and shortly thereafter recordings by such African American bluesmen as Henry Thomas (1927) and Mississippi John Hurt (1928 began ...
Beginning in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Jon Kannoe was a raucous ritual of inversion celebrated by slaves at Christmastime in the eastern towns of coastal North Carolina, especially Wilmington and Edenton. The exact provenance of the practice is uncertain, but various commentators link it with ceremonies from West African regions and the English practice of lavishly costumed men performing in mummery at Christmastime.
The first probable recorded descriptions of Jon Kannoe or Jonkonnu (there are a variety of spellings of the term) are from Jamaica in the late seventeenth century, with the first certain account coming from Edward Long in his 1774History of Jamaica The ritual thrived in the British West Indies especially Jamaica Nassau and the Bahamas and somehow the exact route is uncertain traveled to coastal North Carolina most likely by way of slaves moving from the British West Indies to eastern North ...
Graeme Boone and James Sellman
The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”
In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...
Michael Adams and Delano Greenidge-Copprue
[This entry contains two subentries dealing with language and African Americans The first article looks at the origins of African American English and considers the influences on and development of language among blacks The second article looks at Frederick Douglass s use of language as an example in discussing ...
J. C. Winter
was the partly historical, partly legendary founder of the Kilindi royal dynasty of the Shambaa of Usambara in present-day Tanzania. He was the great-grandfather of Kimweri ye Nyumbai (c. 1815–1862), who was responsible for the expansion and consolidation of the kingdom, after which it disintegrated into an array of local chiefdoms under the strains of slave-raiding promoted by his son Semboja at Mazinde. Much of what is known about Mbegha is based on oral traditions, and historians have tried to separate historical facts from the myths contained in those oral traditions. What is indisputable historical fact is that three generations before Kimweri there was a founder of the dynasty, and most likely his name was Mbegha, which means “Colobus monkey.” Probably also historical were some of the details of his life.
Mbegha was a native of Ngululand to the southwest of Usambara which he left as a social outcast Together ...
From the days of slavery through the civil rights era, African Americans struggling for freedom from oppression have turned for inspiration to Moses, the biblical leader who guided the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land. The slaves were so fascinated by Moses that they often called the South “Egyptland,” the North “the promised land,” and antislavery leaders like Harriet Tubman“Moses”; also, slaves praised Moses’ heroic deeds in sermons, folktales, and spirituals (such as “Go Down Moses,”“Oh, Mary Don't You Weep,” and “Little Moses”). Literary works by modern and contemporary African American authors reflect the enduring importance of Moses to the African American community. Some works, such as Zora Neale Hurston's Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939), straightforwardly retell and reinterpret the biblical account of Moses for twentieth-century African Americans. Other works, writes H. Nigel Thomas employ Moses as ...
The African musical tradition featured the drum and included a host of other small instruments from xylophones to bells to thumb pianos Dancing was an integral expressive part of the music and songs would often assume an individual or communal functionality as in celebratory songs work songs and religious and ceremonial songs Ring dances often with musicians in the center of the ring surrounded by dancers who clapped sang and beat out rhythms while shuffle dancing around were found in many areas Melodic improvisation and a range of vocal sounds and techniques were common as was the pattern of a lead voice or solo alternating with a group of voices in reply an antiphonal style known as call and response West African nations from which slaves were predominantly drawn obviously had their own idiosyncrasies but there were certainly overarching characteristics that traveled the Middle Passage with Africans to America and ...
South African healer and prophet, was born to a prominent South African Xhosa-speaking family in the late eighteenth century. His father was an important leader under the authority of Chuief Ngqika within the larger Xhosa community. His mother, on the other hand, was driven from her husband’s home on the grounds that she had used supernatural power to harm others. Ntsikana grew up in a turbulent time, as the Dutch East Indian Company’s Cape Colony enclave (part of present-day South Africa) made inroads into the Great Fish River region. Occasional wars between Boer settlers and Xhosa, along with struggles between Ngqika and some other Xhosa rivals, posed difficulties. British forces proved more devastating once the British government definitively occupied the Cape Colony in 1806. The ravages of allied British and African forces (including Ngqika) against those Xhosa living west of the Great Fish River led to further upheaval.