More precisely, anthropology studies suggest that African-American communities represent some of the strongest human gatherings in the world precisely because there is a sense of unity in suffering (Jenkins, 1997). Seeing the complete isolation and rejection from and by the white community the African-American communities gathered around and against a common evil which was the white communities and the state. Therefore, the emotional element played an essential role for the way in which the African-American communities developed.
Also, religion played an extremely important part. Their belief in the final absolution and the eternal resolution of all evil deeds motivated their community and succeeded in keeping the community united. This is one of the reasons for which then and now the church is such a significant symbol in the African-American community.
Discuss how demographic patterns have reshaped your understanding of Puritan families and the communities they created.
The issue of religion in the colonial history of the United States is important especially taking into account the fact that the settlement in America was largely due to a religious incentive. More precisely, the settlement in America was the result of the persecution that was taking place in Europe which motivated the Protestants to search for a different environment in which they could exercise their religious beliefs.
The Puritans were the main settlers in New England. A rather religious group, they advocated a strict way of life and behavior, with proper consideration for the institution of marriage and the maintenance of morality (Sperry and Lazzaro, 1946). From this point-of-view, their perspective on life was considered as being strict and limited. They shared a discipline both in the social behavior as well as the economic one. In this sense, the rigors of their domestic life were obvious in the economic behavior they practiced. Thus, although they were interested in achieving an income, their aim was rarely restricted to money or financial improvement.
The nature of the puritan society is rather individualistic and this was also visible in the way they approached the economic perspective. On most occasions, they were strong believers in the individual effort, rather than a collective one. Moreover, the ideology that laid at the foundation of their economic creed was one of calculated decisions and savings.
The society they created was rather autarchic taking into account the fact that people often chose to manufacture their own clothes and practice economic trade among them. Henry Elson underlines this issue as "nearly every farmer was also a rude mechanic. He and his sons usually made the furniture for the household and many of the implements of the farm as well, while his wife and daughters spun the flax and wove it into a coarse cloth from which the family was clothed" (1904). Indeed, the environment did not allow dwellers to engage in important agricultural endeavors; still, the nature of the religious practice also conditioned them to a rather individualistic approach to economic activities and a far more important focus on sections such as culture and education.
By comparison, the Quakers, another important religious community, given their particular different natural environment had established a different community in which the agricultural activities were the main economic activity. As a result there was a different development as well in terms of life perception. The economy was an opened activity in which communities helped each other and relied on the practices of more specialized individuals. The communities of the Quakers were established in the areas of New York and New Jersey. Their attitude and way of life however welcomed immigrants from around the world and enabled their own community to flourish as opposed to the Puritans which had a closed community and allowed no breach of religious precepts.
Prepare an argument that counters the stereotype that Puritans were dour, emotionless, cold, and pious.
In general when a community lacks understanding of what is happening with another community if often creates stereotypes which come to symbolize the actual image of that community. In an applied example the puritans have been considered emotionless, cold, and pious.
Indeed this may have been the actual image and characterization of the puritans. The way in which they practiced religion and in which they conducted their economic and social life enabled history to offer such a characterization. Even so, when this characterization is seen as a stereotype it denies all other aspects of their personality. From this point-of-view it is wrong to see the puritans as bi dimensional communities. In fact, "the emigrating Puritans also brought over the germ of the American public school system. In their opinion, it was essential for every faithful Christian to read the Bible daily; consequently all children had to be taught to read. As soon as the leaders found that they could not depend on parents to teach the children their letters, every town in Massachusetts Bay was ordered to establish a free public school" (Bell, 1930, xi). Therefore, despite the fact that they were a very religious community their religious nature brought an improvement in the society at the time.
Also, should this way of life not be characteristic for the Puritans, it is possible that they would not have survived the treacheries of history and would not have been able to develop their communities. The natural environment as well as the actual times in history was not favorable to any type of community. It was the religious spirit and their after death ideals that made the puritan community thrive and be organized in their affairs.
Therefore, it can be said that indeed puritans were to some extent even religious fanatics in the sense that the Bible was indeed considered to be the most important book to follow. However, it has to be pointed out that stereotypes, when they are present, prevent the outsider to see the positive things the community did precisely through their own way of being, positive things which are now present in everyday life.
Bell, N.S. "Pathways of the Puritans." Old America Company. Framingham, 1930.
Dore, Gilbert. Why The Loyalists Lost. Archiving Early America. 2008. 14 April 2008 http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter2000/loyalists.html
Elson, Henry William. History of the United States of America. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1904.
Jenkins, P. A history of the United States. New York: Palgrave, 1997.