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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 ...


African American Food  

Howard Paige and Mark H. Zanger

This entry includes two subentries:

To the Civil War

Since Emancipation


African American Food in New York  

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 ...


African American Mardi Gras Masquerading Traditions  

Kim Vaz-Deville

African American participation in Mardi Gras has been persistent since its introduction into the Louisiana colony. Their aims ranged from enjoying the merriment of the celebration to enjoying the pleasure of subversion of the social order through masquerade activities.

Using the cloak of satire enabled them to ridicule the prevailing status quo and display identities that were more consistent with who they felt they were as a self-valuing people living in a hostile environment. James Creecy, a cotton farmer, slave holder, and writer, who attended the 1835 New Orleans Mardi Gras noted that

Men and boys women and girls bond and free white and black yellow and brown exert themselves to invent and appear in grotesque quizzical diabolical horrible humorous strange masks and disguises Human bodies are seen with heads of beasts and birds snakes heads and bodies with arms of apes man bats from the moon mermaid satyrs beggars ...


African American Religion.  

Milton C. Sernett

The religious odyssey of peoples of African descent in British North America began as a complex interplay of forced acculturation, voluntary adaptation, and assimilation to the dominant European Protestant Christian culture. After the Revolutionary War, African American Christians in the newly founded United States increased in number as the result of the evangelical revivalism of the era. Slaves voiced their longing for freedom in the preached word and spirituals, and met secretly for worship in what has been called “the invisible institution.” Independent black churches, mostly Baptist, began in the South in the mid–eighteenth century, though few survived the restrictions on freedom of assembly imposed following the Denmark Vesey insurrection in 1822 and Nat Turner's uprising in 1831. Approximately one in seven of the nearly four million African Americans held in slavery as the Civil War began belonged to the predominantly white and Protestant denominations Celebrating emancipation as ...


African American Vernacular English  

James Sellman

African American Vernacular English, or Black English, is fundamentally a spoken language. In fact, it is several distinct dialects, encompassing the vernacular speech of blacks in the United States, the Caribbean, Britain, and elsewhere. Each of these black vernacular languages emerged within a particular racial and cultural context. Most significantly, the roots of African American Vernacular English lie in the experience of slavery and in the cultural collision between a multitude of African languages and an English-speaking dominant culture. This essay focuses on the spoken English of blacks in the United States, which has been the subject of increased attention and occasional controversy since the 1960s.

African American Vernacular English is not substandard English, it is nonstandard English. Grounded in an oral tradition and subject to continuous innovation, it is not easily codified or reduced to formal rules. Yet as linguist William Labov made clear in a groundbreaking series ...


African art, British responses to  

John Picton

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

2.Modernism and 20th‐century exhibitions


African Cultural Links  

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).


African Diaspora  

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.]


African Oral Literature  

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 Religions: An Interpretation  

Robert Baum

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.



Robert H. Gudmestad

Africanisms refer to African cultural and linguistic practices that survived the passage across the Atlantic Ocean, including language, music, dance, medicine, folk culture, food preparation, and many others. The extent to which enslaved Africans retained their culture was the subject of much debate in the twentieth century.

A sociologist rather than a historian first raised the question: in the early twentieth century E. Franklin Frazier doubted the persistence of African cultural forms in America. The anthropologist Melville Herskovits disagreed, arguing that significant numbers and types of Africanisms survived the Middle Passage. Sidney Mintz and Richard Price who both examined black activity in the Caribbean provided a more nuanced interpretation they believed that no single African American culture was transported intact to the Americas but rather that the Middle Passage was crucial to a reinvention of slave self identity Modern historians commonly believe that once slaves arrived in the Americas ...


Afro-Latin America, Research on  

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 ...


Afro-Latino Cultures in the United States  

Juan Flores

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 ...


Aguirre Beltrán, Gonzalo  

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 ...


Alice of Dunk's Ferry  

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 ...


Amadi, Elechi  

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 ...


Anancy Story  

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 ...