Slave Culture Term Paper

Length: 4 pages Sources: 4 Subject: Black Studies Type: Term Paper Paper: #89394284 Related Topics: 12 Years A Slave, Slave Narrative, Subculture, Communion

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Slave Culture The trans-Atlantic slave trade shackled together persons from disparate cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Forced contact and communion, pervasive physical and psychological abuse, and systematic disenfranchisement became the soil in which a unique subculture would be born. Slave subcultures in the United States were also diverse, depending on geography, the nature of the plantation work, the prevailing political and social landscape of the slave owner culture, and factors like gender and ethnic backgrounds of the slaves. Presence and type of religion in the community also impacted the evolution of slave culture. Common factors that link disparate slave subcultures include religion, music, crafts, food, social norms, and political philosophies. In spite of the tremendous variations in theme and tone of slave cultures, such as those in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, or the Carolinas, there did emerge some consistencies that draw attention to commonalities. The forced bondage of slavery created the means by which vibrant African-American cultures emerged and flourished.

Language is one of the most significant features of slave cultures, and denotes the similarities and differences between different slave cultures. One of the most cohesive and historically intact slave cultures in the United States is that of the Carolinas, particularly the Gullah or Geechee people. The Gullah/Geechee culture has assimilated less with American mainstream society than have African-Americans who have migrated from the South after Reconstruction and especially after the Second World War (Chen & Kermeliotis, 2012). The Gullah/Geechee consider and refer to themselves as a "nation" of people. As benchmarks of any culture, there is a distinct Gullah dialect, an English-based Creole, and Gullah food is likewise unique (Chen & Kermeliotis, 2012). Linguists have traced the origins of Gullah to...


Just as Gullah language blended African languages with English, the Creole of other slave cultures evolved as African languages blended with other European languages like French, as well as with Native American languages like Cherokee ("African Diaspora," n.d.). Geography influenced the character of slave culture partly due to the fact that some areas imported new slaves directly from Africa more frequently than others. In areas with expansive territories and abundant opportunities for cash crops, like the Deep South, new slaves from Africa were continually refilling the labor market. This meant that African traditions were kept alive more readily than if there were a moratorium on new importations ("African Diaspora," n.d.). The Chesapeake region also had a thriving slave labor market, which is why the slave culture thrived there and required the importation of new slaves. Frequent new slave purchases, coupled with relative geographic isolation, meant that some slave cultures evolved intact and withstood the test of time after Reconstruction. The design of objects of art and musical instruments was especially prolific in areas with the highest concentrations of slaves, like the Deep South (Sambol-Tosco, 2004). Higher concentrations of slaves also enabled the emergence of subversive discourse and the evolution of a distinct slave political philosophy that could aid in the organization of revolts.

In the Gullah strongholds on the islands off the coast of South Carolina, presence of African traditions that have faded from the African-American mainstream remain strong. Folktales, music, literature, arts, and worldview among Gullah draws from ancestry traced back to West Africa, primarily to what is now Sierra Leone and its neighbors. Although the Gullah people trace their ancestries to diverse linguistic and ethnic tribes in Africa, the course…

Sources Used in Documents:


"African Diaspora," (n.d.). Retrieved online:

Chen, A. & Kermeliotis, T. (2012). African slave traditions live on in U.S. CNN World. Dec 10, 2012. Retrieved online:

Sambol-Tosco, K. (2004). Education, arts, and culture. Slavery and the Making of America: Historical Overview. PBS. Retrieved online:

"Slave Culture," (n.d.). Retrieved online:

Cite this Document:

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