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Kwadwo Osei-Nyame

Abusua is an expression used by the Akan people of Ghana to denote the notion of clan or family. Within Akan society and culture, abusua basically refers to the concept of family or the social organization that links all the individual members of an ancestral lineage together. It is a commonly perpetuated view among the Akan people that abusua originates through maternal ancestral lineage. Consequently, one often encounters the argument that members of an Akan abusua are descended from a common maternal ancestress and linked by blood ties. While this is true to some extent, it also presumes that one can only properly belong to an abusua or family grouping that is constituted through the female matriclan. The practical manifestation of the abusua and the relationships that inhere therein, are, however, such that it becomes evident that abusua are also constituted through patrilineages or patriclans More noteworthy where the ...


Donna M. DeBlasio

The acculturation of newly arrived enslaved Africans to the New World involved the interaction between Europeans and Africans. In this complex process Africans were often able to fuse their native culture with that of the Europeans who were their new masters. Indeed, elements of African traditions survived in many forms, including religion, dance, music, folklore, language, decorative arts, and architecture. With the closing of the slave trade and a decreasing number of native-born Africans, intense acculturation abated. Over time both cultures, European and African, were transformed by their coexistence and sharing of traditions. The richness and variety of American culture owes much to traditions brought by Africans to the New World.

Religious practices and beliefs were central to both the Africans and the Europeans Early in slavery s history in North America many whites actually opposed converting slaves to Christianity They believed that baptizing African slaves might give them ideas ...



Oluwatoyin Adepoju

Adinkra are visual forms that first achieved prominence among the Akan linguistic group whose members are now part of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Its origin is uncertain but evidence suggests that it developed within the former Asante and Gyaman nations. Adinkra often involve designs that integrate striking aesthetic power, evocative mathematical structures, and philosophical conceptions ranging from the ethical to the cosmological, expressed in relation to proverbs and stories. The earliest known use of Adinkra integrates the world of the living, the departed, and the Supreme Being in designs on funeral garments. The designs evoke the understanding which each kra—the eternal essence of the person as understood in Akan thought—takes with it to the beyond, an awareness which also recalls the message the kra carried when it bade goodbye to its creator on leaving for the earth.

The earliest widely known use of Adinkra suggests the closing of ...


Howard Paige and Mark H. Zanger

This entry includes two subentries:

To the Civil War

Since Emancipation


Scott Alves Barton

Evidence of African, African American influence in food and foodways begins in the seventeenth century in the New York colony’s Dutch and British “Meal Market” that operated from 1655 to 1762 on Wall Street and the East River where enslaved Africans were also sold. Men, women, and children worked as market vendors of prepared foods like hot corn, fresh produce, oysters, fish, livestock, and as dairymen and -women selling cheeses, butter, and milk in local markets. In addition, the African Burial Ground’s archaeology of colonial privies identifies products such as Brazil nuts, coconut, and watermelon that were not native to New York or Europe. Colonizers may have imported some these goods, but the enslaved would have known how to process or raise them (Cheek and Roberts, 2009; Berlin 1996; Burrows and Wallace 1999 At the same time West African women cooking in elite white colonial and ...


1.Changing perceptions from the late 15th to the early 20th centuries

2.Modernism and 20th‐century exhibitions


Sudarkasa Niara

Early in the twentieth century, scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and Melville J. Herskovits incorporated research about the African past in their writings on blacks in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas. More than any other scholar, the anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits focused his research and publications on the survival of African cultural influences in the United States, as well as in the Caribbean and South America. Herskovits refuted the assertion by E. Franklin Frazier and others that the culture of blacks in America showed little or no evidence of links to Africa. According to Frazier, the remnants of African culture that had been brought to the United States were obliterated by the experience of slavery. Yet Herskovits provided many examples of enduring cultural links to Africa in his book, The Myth of the Negro Past (1941).


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.]


Lupenga Mphande

Artistic forms of expression are deeply ingrained in the black cultural experience and in the lives of African peoples providing a forum for participation in the community and for exploring the mysteries of humanity The artistic forms exert a huge impact on Africa s cultural realities institutions the system of values and her vision for the future in a global context The oral art forms are the best examples of the African imaginative expression and their deployment in performance has become a rallying point for a call to an African renaissance and rejuvenation throughout the continent Although African societies have developed writing traditions Africans are primarily an oral people and it is that tradition that has dominated their cultural norms The term orature which means the artistic use of language in oral performance refers to something that is passed on through the spoken word and because it is based on ...


African peoples have created hundreds of distinct religions that, despite centuries of contact with Islam and Christianity, remain important both in Africa itself and to followers in the Americas and in Europe. Approximately half of Africa's current population identify themselves as Muslim. A smaller number identify themselves as Christian or as followers of indigenous African religions, and small groups (under one million each) identify themselves as Jewish or Hindu. This essay focuses on those religions created by African peoples south of the Sahara. While there is considerable diversity in African religions, this essay will emphasize their commonalities.


Anani Dzidzienyo

Afro-Latin America encompasses a broad geographical, cultural, and linguistic area of Latin America—from Brazil in South America to the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, and Mexico in Central America. There is no agreement among scholars or other observers about which countries may be correctly designated as Afro-Latin American. A generally accepted yardstick emphasizes the presence of people of African descent from the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to the present. How many Afro-Latin Americans there are today is a difficult question to answer. Throughout Latin America, definitions of race, color, and origin are extremely varied. In Brazil, for example, the four official racial categories are black, brown (or pardo), yellow, and white. Yet census takers in 1980 counted some 140 terms ...


If by the term Afro-Latino culture, we are referring broadly to the cultural experience of Spanish-speaking black people in what has become the territory of the United States, then their role in the settlement of San Agustín, Florida, in 1565, and later in building the city's Castle of San Marcos (1672–1695) and Fort Mose (1702), places Afro-Latinos at the threshold of American history. Or perhaps, given the foundational symbolism of Jamestown (1620) and Plymouth (1607 those initial Afro Latino experiences in Spanish Florida are more the antechamber the less ceremonious advance contact between European invaders and indigenous peoples As buffers and cannon fodder as reconnaissance scouts and militiamen as intermediaries and of course as attendants and slaves Afro Latinos have been implicated in the forging of the North American story made to comply with and at the same time themselves ...


Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán was born and received his primary and secondary schooling in Veracruz, where there was a strong African influence, before studying medicine in Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos undertook pioneering studies of Indians in Mexico, whose culture and history had largely been viewed with disdain until then. The studies resurrected a degree of interest in and dignity for Indian heritage. Although Vasconcelos argued that much of indigenous culture should be subsumed in a larger Mexican culture, Aguirre Beltrán believed that indigenous cultures were worthy of study for their own sake. After graduating from the University of Mexico with a medical degree, Aguirre Beltrán returned to Veracruz, where he held a post in public health that further sparked his interest in Indian ethnicity and history. In 1940 he published two studies on the ethnohistory of colonial and precolonial Indians in ...


Darshell Silva

oral historian and centenarian, was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents who were slaves brought to the United States from Barbados. She was moved to Dunk's Ferry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when she was ten years old to be with her master, of whom no information is available. There Alice lived as a slave, collecting ferry fares for forty years of her life.

Alice was a spirited and intelligent woman. She loved to hear the Bible read to her, but like most other enslaved people she could not read or write. She also held the truth in high esteem and was considered trustworthy. Her reliable memory served her well throughout her long life.

Many notable people of the time are said to have made her acquaintance like Thomas Story founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane which was the precursor to ...


Kate Tuttle

A member of the Igbo ethnic group, Elechi Amadi was born in a small southeastern Nigerian village near Port Harcourt. In 1959 he graduated with a degree in physics and mathematics from the University College of Ibadan, a prestigious college attended by other well-known Nigerian writers, such as Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka. After working as a land surveyor, Amadi taught science for three years at missionary schools in Ahoada and Oba. In 1963 he joined the Nigerian Army; he taught the Ikwerri dialect of Igbo at a military school in Zaria.

His first book, The Concubine, blended acute psychological detail and precise observation to tell the story of a young village woman's battle with spiritual forces. The book's publication in 1966 coincided with the proclamation of an independent state—Biafra—in Igbo-dominated southeastern Nigeria Amadi s allegiance to the Federal ...


During the period of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Asante captives from the African Gold Coast brought the narrative form to the Caribbean These original tales were interspersed with song and depicted a wily spider character who used his wits and cunning to survive Today Anancy stories include many ...


Edmund Abaka

The ancestors are those who have departed and joined those who had departed earlier for the world of the dead. They constitute the linchpin of African traditional religion. It is to the ancestors that the living look for succour in times of trouble, favor in the event of adversity and difficulties, and blessings whenever a new enterprise is to be undertaken. The ancestors are venerated, not worshipped, for the help that they provide to the living. Specific festivals such as the Adae of the Akan of Ghana are designed to propitiate the ancestors.

In African traditional religion the Supreme Being ranks first among all powers The Supreme Being is given various names in various societies Second in the hierarchy are the deities or the lesser gods who are considered messengers or vice regents of the Supreme Being They represent various manifestations of the Supreme Being and do his bidding Although ...


Paul Hanson

More than an anthropology of Africa or an anthropology by Africans, African anthropology represents a dynamic, contested, and, above all, generative site. Upon this site, European, American, and African social relations have been produced and rehearsed, colonial and postcolonial governmentalites molded, and the contours of the African postcolony drawn. Although African anthropology is characterized by marked changes over the past century, a definite coherence can be read from the growth of its institutions and the problems defining the core of its knowledges. Considering the breadth of the topic and the limited space for development, this entry will focus on the field of African sociocultural anthropology.

The Early Years of Anthropology and the Thematics of Conversion. In The Invention of Africa, V. Y. Mudimbe questions the often taken for granted divide between missionary interpretations of Africa and the interpretations of Africa held by early anthropologists He insists that the ...


For information on

African art in general: See Art and Architecture, African; Commodification of African Art: An Interpretation. Motion pictures and filmmakers: See Alassane, Mousstapha; Cinema, African; Cissé, Souleymane; Faye, Safi; Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes; Gerima, Haile; Hondo Abid Mohamed Medoun Med ...


Funso Afolayan

The word àṣộ (or àshe.) among the Yoruba-speaking people of West Africa and of the African Diaspora in the Americas and other places, means “power,” “authority,” “command,” “energy,” or “life force.” The concept of àṣộ is an affective, foundational, albeit enigmatic, principle that informs religious, social, political, artistic, and philosophical discourses among the Yoruba. Àṣẹ is believed to originate from Olodumare, the Supreme Being of the Yoruba. As the bestower of life and virtue, Olodumare is the very embodiment of àṣộ. As a vital energy, àṣộ sustains all things, whether animate or inanimate, deities, spirits, ancestors, humans, animals, plants, rivers, mountains, rocks, caves, and many more. Intangible and intractable voiced words, eye flashes, a wink, a wave of the hand, and other visual and voiced expressions, such as songs, praises, incantations, chants, curses, and everyday conversations, become powerful and potent as a result of their infusion with àṣộ ...