The Key Elements of the Slave Community
|Topics:||Historiography, Community, Freedom, Identity, 🌍 Africa, 👳🏿 Slavery|
Table of Contents
The slave community has been a subject of study for many historians. There has been an undying interest on the need to understand the identity of the slave community and the factors that kept the community together. Notably, the slave community comprised individuals from the African descent who had a unique culture that was completely distinct from the American culture. It is imperative to analyze aspects such as kinship, religion, folk customs, as well as arts with the core objective of understanding the factors that sustained the slave community (Foner, 2016). Primary sources from the slavery period have helped in developing a better understanding of the slave community, their culture, as well as the activities that defined their existence. This paper will present a critical analysis of the slave community, its unique identity, and the key elements that governed the identity.
Before the transatlantic slave trade, different African countries held diverse belief systems and cultural practices. However, there were some attributes of their culture that identified the different countries as part of the greater African culture. After becoming slaves in the American colonies, the African slaves focused on aspects that brought them together as African people (Foner, 2017). Particularly, they promoted kinship practices that are common and popular in the African society. African societies have a strong regard for kinship ties, an aspect that the slave community promoted. However, it was a major challenge to maintain kinship ties while the people had been cut off from their original communities in Africa. Moreover, the white masters discouraged any efforts to promote kinship ties as a way of preventing a potential resistance (Foner, 2016). It was a common practice for the white masters to separate families from their kin so that they would work for different masters. Despite such challenges, the slave community upheld a remarkable recognition of kinship ties.
The African religion was one of the binding aspects that brought the slave community together. Particularly, the slaves shared some of the belief systems governing the African traditional religion. For this reason, the slave community maintained a close attachment to their religion because they believed that only their gods would save them. However, it was not long before the slave community embraced the western religions such as Christianity. Notably, the slave community appreciated Christianity and the hope it presented to them (Foner, 2017). Undoubtedly, Christianity offered a real hope that they would eventually be free through God’s intervention. In some colonies, the African slaves became familiar with different Christian practices that redefined their approach to religion (Foner, 2016). The colonialists were members of different religions and often influenced the colonies in agreement with their original religion in Europe. For many slaves, Christianity served as an aspect that brought them together in worship. The slave community established black churches, and they were able to worship in a manner that conformed to their African background.
Folk customs also served to sustain the slave community in different American colonies. The folk customs represented various cultural forms of expressions that originated from the African societies. Notably, African societies promoted folk tales and narratives. The oral traditions served as a defining aspect of different African societies. The slave community brought these folk tales to the United States (Foner, 2016). They entertained themselves using their oral traditions during leisure hours, holidays, and Sundays. They formed a strong dance culture in which they sang and danced to some of the popular tunes from Africa. Music and dance would eventually become the most significant cultural aspect that sustained the slave community (Foner, 2017). Through music, dance, and other oral traditions, the slave community was able to express their inner feelings towards slavery. They used the oral traditions to deal with the nostalgia they experienced each time they remembered their homes. The folk customs represented their strongest attachment to the African culture, even when they were forced to live in a foreign continent. As the years went by, the folk customs eventually became significant factors of influence on the American music culture.
The slave community promoted various forms of art in agreement with the African culture. It was explicit that they had expertise in expressing themselves using different forms of art. It is necessary to appreciate the role that the arts of the slaves eventually played in reshaping the American art. The slave community was facing difficult times due to the excessive exploitation and the lack of hope for the future. However, the community used their religion, folk customs, different forms of art, and kinship ties to sustain themselves. These elements kept them occupied and entertained and helped them to forget the suffering they were experiencing momentarily (Foner, 2017). Over the years, it has become clear that the culture of the slave community registered a significant impact on various cultural aspects in the United States. The African Americans used these cultural elements to express themselves after suffering in silence for many years. Moreover, the art forms represented a remarkable way of bonding and maintaining their unity as a people. Historians have explained that these elements served to sustain the slave community for many years.
- Foner, E. (2016). Voices of freedom: A documentary history. New York: W.W. Norton.
- Foner, E. (2017). Give me liberty!: An American history. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.