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Carlos Franco Liberato and Martha I. Pallante

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the African diaspora, from the origins of slave trade through nineteenth-century America. The first article focuses on the evolution and criticism of the diaspora, while the second article focuses on the cultural effects of this forced transatlantic migration.]

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

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 ...

Article

The connection between Africa and Brazil dates back to the sixteenth century, when the Portuguese first brought slaves from Africa to work on the great plantations of their new colony. The traffic in slaves lasted until 1888, some sixty-six years after Brazil had won its independence from Portugal, and it involved close to four million persons from various parts of the African continent. The duration of the slave trade, coupled with the constant replenishment of its human stock, has meant that Africa's religious, cultural, and demographic presence in Brazil has been unusually strong. Indeed, Brazil is believed to be home to the world's second largest group of people of African descent, after the Republic of Nigeria.

The religious and cultural traditions brought to Brazil by African slaves met with considerable disapproval among the dominant classes who in their mission to put a civilizing European gloss on the ...

Article

Augustus Dill was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, son of John Jackson and Elizabeth (Stratton) Dill. He received a B.A. in 1906 from Atlanta University, where he was a student of W. E. B. Du Bois. On Du Bois's advice, Dill went on to earn a second B.A. at Harvard University in 1908.

Dill returned to Atlanta to assist Du Bois on his sociological project of documenting all dimensions of black life in American society. From 1911 to 1915 he coedited four major studies. In 1910, Dill replaced his mentor as associate professor of sociology when Du Bois left Atlanta University to found The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1913, Du Bois hired Dill as business manager for The Crisis, a post he remained in until 1928 Arrested that year in New ...

Article

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.

Article

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 ...

Article

John Garst

“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 ...

Article

Donna Tyler Hollie

chef, restaurant owner, author, and teacher, was born in Orange County, Virginia. She was one of eight children, three sons and five daughters, born to Eugene and Daisy Lewis. Her community, called Freetown, was established by her grandfather, Chester Lewis, a farmer, and other freedmen after the Civil War. Her grandfather's home was the site of the community's first school.

Although little is known about Lewis's formal academic education, she learned to cook by observing and assisting her mother and paternal aunt, Jennie These women cooked in the tradition of their African forebearers using seasonal ingredients frying in oil flavoring vegetables with meat improvising and relying on their senses to determine whether food was appropriately seasoned and thoroughly cooked For example whether a cake was done could be determined by listening to the sound made by the cake pan Wonderful dishes were created ...

Article

Oscar Micheaux was born near Murphysboro, Illinois, the fifth of thirteen children. He went to Chicago at the age of seventeen, where he worked as a shoeshine boy and Pullman porter. In 1904 he used his savings to buy a homestead in South Dakota on land newly opened to settlement. Micheaux's experiences as an African American settler in the rough-and-tumble environment of the South Dakota frontier provided him with material for several of his most important books and movies.

Micheaux's first creative work was the 1913 novel The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer. This novel followed the adventures of a self-made black settler caught between love for a white woman and the perceived demands of his racial identity. A similar plot defined Micheaux's longer novel The Homesteader (1917). Micheaux used the proceeds from The Conquest to start a Sioux City business the Western ...

Article

Patricia Hunt-Hurst

A skilled needle trade of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, millinery required that a woman not only know the techniques of hat making but also have some natural artistic talent of her own. Millinery required a great deal of expert handwork. Once she envisioned the hat, the milliner molded, shaped, and manipulated the materials to achieve the desired silhouette. All of this creativity expressed itself through skilled handwork and intimate knowledge of the materials.