This 18-page paper presents an in-depth study of the African Diaspora

This 18-page paper presents an in-depth study of the AfricanDiaspora culture coming to the Southern United States of Ame

The actual definition of Diaspora is the
breaking up and scattering of a people. This means that Diaspora has occurred
all over the world at various times in history just based on the wars the world
has endured. People migrate all of the time but in the truest sense of the word
relating to the African culture it refers to forced breaking up and forced
scattering. For the last 150 years or so we have wrestled with the fact that we
condoned the purchase and ownership of other human beings and used them to
cater to our every whim and give us free labor on our plantations. While a
century and a half has passed since the days of slavery in America the
consequences are still felt in many areas including the culture of the African
American today.
African Diaspora as it pertains to the
transportation and settling of Africans in the southern United States created a
culture and a ay of life here that was unique to slaves. Many of them died en-route and the ones who
made it here often lost their family members and children to sales. The world
was turned upside down for those who wee unfortunate enough to be sold to the
south, and given their circumstances they carved out a new culture that could
withstand the harshness of slave life while still preserving their dignity and
Through the Diaspora and the settling into
slave life once they arrived in America the Africans showed a strength and
character that was strong with resolve. They were determined not to have their
spirit broken and refused to forget who they were and where they came from.

While the new culture was developed it incorporated both the old traditions of
Africa and newly acquired traditions of the southern US.
Before we can understand how the African
Diaspora developed into a culture in the United States we must first have a
grasp on the years and events leading up to it.
Though the African slave traders began
sending slaves to he US in the 18th century the practice of slave
trading hit African centuries before that(African Slave
Trade It was in the end of
the 14th century that the Europeans began taking people form Africa
and selling them against their will to others (African Slave
Trade They were mainly
being used as servants for the rich in Europe.

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To prevent worldwide outrage about them owning Africans against their
will the Europeans claimed it was to benefit the Africans by allowing them to
be Christians (African Slave
Trade This was during an
era in which the church had an extremely strong hold on every day life and
people built their lives around church doctrine and church guidance (African
Slave Trade
Using this as an angle worked because by the
17th century the Christian Church was lending its full support to
the act of stealing Africans and making them slaves (African Slave
When Spanish and Portuguese sea-captains
began to explore the Americas they took their African servants with them. Some
of these Africans proved to be excellent explorers. The most important of these
was Estevanico, who led the first European expedition to New Mexico and Arizona
(African Slave Trade
However when European development began
to grow in new lands faster than they could keep up they needed labor workers.

Traders began to get the idea that many Africans meant lots of profit and began
to bump up the number of slaves they would request (African Slave
Trade It soon became
evident that the captured prisoners of war between tribes was not going to be
enough, so they then began wondering if they could obtain slaves in some other
fashion (African Slave
Trade The chiefs as well as the slave traders and
auctioneers began rounding up Africans by the thousands and capturing them to
sell as slaves. Children were no longer safe playing with their friends
outside. There were adults who went for a walk in the morning and were never
heard from again (African Slave
Trade Fathers left entire
families as they were snatched from the town they lived in. Those who lived in
rural areas had it even worse as it was generally accept to be much safer to
steal form out lying areas because no one could ear them screaming for help
(African Slave Trade
stealing of Africans and selling them as labor began with a vengeance (African
Slave Trade British
merchants became every active in the theft and hiding of Africans until the
slave ships could come and the Africans would be put on slave ships bound for
various Americas, never to see their loved ones again.

slaves were actually given to the merchants by the African chiefs who traded
them for European goods (African Slave Trade

They started out being captured warriors
from tribal wars but the demand became so great that the chiefs were soon
organizing raiding parties to go out into the bush, capture healthy looking
Africans and bring them back for the purpose of trade (African Slave
Olaudah Equiano was captured and sold as a slave in the kingdom of Benin in
Africa. He wrote about his experiences in The Life of Olaudah Equiano the
African (1789) (African Slave
when the grown people in the neighborhood were gone far in the fields to labor,
the children assembled together in some of the neighborhood’s premises to play;
and commonly some of us used to get up a tree to look out for any assailant, or
kidnapper, that might come upon us; for they sometimes took those opportunities
of our parents’ absence, to attack and carry off as many as they could seize
(African Slave Trade
day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and
my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our
walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out,
or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, and ran off with us into the
nearest wood (African Slave
Trade Here they tied our
hands, and continued to carry us as far as they could, till night came on, when
we reached a small house, where the robbers halted for refreshment, and spent
the night (African Slave

was sold as a slave and never saw his family members again.

This was not an infrequent occurrence. One
man tells a story that he was captured to be a slave (African Slave
Trade His wife did not
want him to go alone so she offered to go also if they could bring their baby
(African Slave Trade The
African captures extracted a promise from the traders that they should be kept
as a family and the baby would not be sold. They had to leave their other four
children behind but that was okay as they were safe and they would be together
(African Slave Trade The
trader began traveling to get to the shore to the ships with his find and he
had to rest over night. Rather than pay the innkeeper in cash the trader ripped
the baby from the mothers arms the next morning and handed him over as a
future slave (African Slave
Trade He was probably
about three and old enough already to do chores around the inn. The trader
whipped the parents until they agreed to leave the child behind and continue on
to the ship (African Slave
From there the slave trade market moved
to the Americas and the southern United States. It grew very quickly because
the development of America mean there was much work to do and that the
plantation owners needed workers that could run the plantations for them
(African Slave Trade The
idea of free labor caught on quickly and it was not long before slaves were
being imported by the thousands to the southern United States (African Slave
The slave market became so prosperous that
Africans were being stolen and sold from their homeland by the thousands
(African Slave Trade The
potential owners only wanted those that could work hard so the captains of the
slave ships were charged with accepting or rejecting the prospective slaves.

They would put the Africans through very extensive physical examinations
(African Slave Trade If a
potential slave had any problem at all such as bad teeth, a disorder, illness
or deformity that African was rejected (African Slave
Trade On the surface it
sounds as if being unable to perform was a good thing for it got them out of
being slaves, however the contrary was true. Those who were rejected would
anger the traders so much that they would often beat the ill, and deformed who
did not make the grade (African Slave Trade Historical accounts talk about watching the
instant beheading of any African deemed unworthy of being as slave. Therefore
it behooved the captured African to try and look and act as healthy and strong
as possible for the slave ship would at least forestall death as long as they
could make the trip (African Slave
The slave ships carried as many as they
possibly could because the more slaves they carried the more money the captain
made. In 1788 a slave ship called the Brookes was carrying over 600 slaves
from Africa to America and the ship was built for a maximum capacity of
450(African Slave
The ships were crowded far beyond
acceptable capacity. They bound together the hands and feet of the captured
slaves and they were left almost no room to move about or stretch their limbs
(Slave Ships There have
been estimates that only half of the slaves captured in Africa and taken to the
US actually became effective workers. Half of those put on the ships died and
others committed suicide by refusing all food or water. Those who did survive
the trip were often crippled for life because of the way they were chained up
for the trip (Slave Ships
the 17th century slaves could be purchased in Africa for about $25 and sold in
the Americas for about $150. After the slave trade was declared illegal, prices
went much higher (Slave Ships Even with a death-rate of
50 per cent, merchants could expect to make tremendous profits from the trade
(Slave Ships
As the slaves began arriving in America
and living in the southern states they bore children, got married, had funerals
and other life events that are natural anywhere (Slave Ships However, tier circumstances
were anything but natural and normal and their culture was being squashed right
out from under them. Many things were tried to prevent them from reliving their
cultural traditions (Slave Ships They were banned from
owning drums for instance because the overseers believed the slaves might use
the drums to send signals to each other about uprising and escaping (Slave
Ships The drums were such
an integral part of the African culture that it was always a blow to have an
overseer refuse to allow them. There were many instances such as this that
caused the slaves to have to mold and reshape their culture in a way that would
be allowed while still allowing them some dignity of their roots and heritage
(Slave Ships
Many times the development of the
African Diaspora culture was out of necessity and born of desire more than
religious preference (Slave Ships However, there were also
religious considerations that were taken into account (Slave Ships Slaves families began to
create and carve out various traditions that they had brought with them from
the old country and they invented new ones that suited their master sand allowed
the slaves to still have a culture that was separate and part form those who
stole, purchased and now owned them (Slave Ships
One of the biggest and most heart
wrenching culture changes that took affect in the southern United States with
African Americans was the cultural rules of marriage (Slave Families Because the law allowed for the sale
of slaves without regard to their marital status the sale of ones wife or
husband was entirely feasible and something that happened with frequency. Even
more heart breaking the children were also allowed to be sold away from their
moms and dads without having to send a parent with them or ask a parents
permission (Slave Ships
It became part of the culture to hide ones
children and hope the slave trader, plantation owner or overseer would not
notice the children lest they decide to sell them at market. Even when they
removed them in masses, such as seven children from the same parents they would
sell them one by one along the way so the children were not given siblings to
grow up with either (Slave Ships

study of slave records by the Freedmen’s Bureau of 2,888 slave marriages in
Mississippi (1,225), Tennessee (1,123) and Louisiana (540), revealed that over
32 per cent of marriages were dissolved by masters as a result of slaves being
sold away from the family home (Slave Ships
Slave Music
The music of the African Diaspora that
brought African slaves to the southern United States had to change from what
they had been used to in Africa. For one thing the Africans were extremely
involved in the playing of drums. Drums were often used as the only instrument
in the tribe and it was cherished and thought of as a beautiful music-making
instrument. However, once the slaves began arriving in the southern United
States in the late eighteenth century. However, once they arrived in the
southern states the overseers had concerns that the drums could be used to plot
escape and uprisings. Because many overseers had no idea what the drums were
saying: to each other they decided to play it safe and ban the use of drums
all together when it came to the allowing of music ion the plantations.
attempted to preserve the culture that they had brought with them from Africa.

Jeanette Murphy recalled: “During my childhood my observations were
centered upon a few very old Negroes who came directly from Africa, and upon
many others whose parents were African born, and I early came to the
conclusion, based upon Negro authority, that the greater part of the music,
their methods, their scale, their type of thought, their dancing, their patting
of feet, their clapping of hands, their grimaces and pantomime, and their gross
superstitions came straight from Africa (Slave music”
Music remained a large part of the African
Diaspora culture and is still an important part of African American culture of
today. The slaves were not giving up. During the late seventeenth century they
were told not to use drums anymore so they began using other instruments that
did not upset t the overseers or plantation owners.
Attempts were made to stop slaves from
continuing with African religious rituals. Drums were banned, as overseers
feared that they could be used to send messages. They were particularly
concerned that they would be used to signal a slave uprising.

When the music was banned or forbidden they
would not be stopped and instead began singing. There have been many tales of
slaves singing and historians have pointed to that and claimed that they were
happy. However, personal accounts form the slaves themselves paint a different
picture. Yes, the culture from the African Diaspora developed musically and
involved singing on the parts of the slaves but that was a self-preservation
method that the culture adopted. The slaves said that they sang to try and keep
their sanity and wits about them while being subjected to a fate that a dog
wouldnt endure. In addition the loud and happy sounding singing would make the
overseers feel that things were going well and it saved many slaves from
underserved beatings.
Another purpose for the loud and
boisterous signing was the rhythm. The culture that came from African Diaspora
was carried over to the southern states. The Africans had been used to using
drums and sticks to rhythmically beat out a tune while working. When the drums
were removed from their allowable pleasures they found a way to fill the gap by
singing very loudly. Many accounts of the slaves talk about singing that was so
loud it was heard for miles around in fields and woods. The songs were filled
with love as well as sorrow. The slaves of the late seventeenth century wee
first generation slaves. They had not been born into ownership and they wee not
naive about what their lives used to be like. The culture they built at that
time often times had a temporary feeling to it because they believed that
someday they would go home. The first generation slaves were more stubborn in
their resolve to hang on to the culture and traditions they had been forced to
leave behind.
The music that they sang was often made up
of stories of their lives or the lives of those that they knew. In addition as
they were forced into the Christian faith they often wailed out the Christian
hymns that they heard coming from churches along the road. The slave music was
always an integral part of African Diaspora and was a part of every slave
family in the south.
The overseers often complained because they
could not understand the words to the songs the slaves were singing. It sounded
like gibberish to the outsider but the slaves, who remember, were first
generation from Africa in many cases, were singing in their native tongue and
the style of music often mimicked the music they had learned before being
captured and sold into slavery.
Often times the overseers felt the singing
was a sign of defiance as well. They would look upon a singing slave and decide
he was openly defying the plantation owner by signing his heart out and he
would then inflict hundreds of whiplashes on the slave for the terrible crime
of singing. This music that was developed as part of the African Diaspora
culture held both sad and happy sounds and are still popular to this day in the
African American culture.
African Diaspora caused a development of a culture that was part tradition from
the old country, part new tradition and part forced tradition. The thousands of
slaves who were here in the last part of the eighteenth century were many first
generation slaves. Therefore they remembered the culture from home and
attempted to keep it alive one they arrived in America. Many of the things they
did including games and songs remained the same even though they were thousands
of miles from home and were now owned as a dog would be owned. Those who were
old enough to remember the African nation traditions taught them to those who
had been too young when they came here. Those who wee born after getting here
sat at the feet of the old timers and were told stories of their heritage and
their homeland that they someday hoped to go and see. Those who had lost loved
ones due to trades and sales that the were not allowed to be a part of mourned
their losses by telling stories of them to those who remained behind. It was
through this method that many of the African traditions were preserved and
continued on in spite do the fact that there were oversees trying to squash the
In addition there were new traditions
introduced to mix with the old ones. This happened for several reasons The
African Diaspora caused Africans from the entire continent captured and sold as
slaves to come to the southern United States. They had different traditions
because they had lived in other parts of Africa. Their traditions may have been
different but when they got to America and were subjected to the brutal life of
slavery they bonded with other Africans for sheer support. As this occurred and
trading and sales brought different dialects and traditions together less than
one plantation umbrella the slaves began to share their traditions and cultures
with each other. This cause an eventual blending of the cultures and a third
culture developed. The African Diaspora culture is one that is a blend of
several r as well as forced traditions that they eventually adopted as their

Finally there was the element of forced
traditions and cultural practices because the slaves were owned human beings
with no legal rights whatsoever they could be treated anyway the overseer or
plantation owner saw fit. They were often beaten for insisting on hanging on to
their former lives, beliefs and values (Porter PG). The overseers felt if the
slaves got to self confident they would decide to escape so many times for no
reason at al the slaves were told to stop something that had been a pat of
their lives in Africa. The banning of the African drumming is a perfect example
of this happening. The overseers would try and force their own personal values,
beliefs and tractions o the life of the slaves, and the slaves, afraid of a
beating or of having one of their children hurt to punish them would comply.

These traditions included certain types of music as well as behaviors and they
eventually became so ingrained in the system the roots and origin were long
The African Diaspora did not take a year to
develop nor did it take a year to develop culturally when the slaves arrived in
the southern states. Many things changed for the slaves over the years as the
people if Americans thought things over. There was a time that slaves were not
allowed to attend church. The fear was that they would take the bible stories
of Jesus and assumes that the bible and therefore God wanted them to be equal
to their owners. This was stopped by not allowing the Africans to go to church.

However, by the late 1700s the African slaves wanted to worship and had been
donning so on their own anyway, so church was allowed in many instances. The
Africans had their won faith and songs that they wanted to utilize in the
church and those were allowed as long ass there was no reading involved. Slaves
were not allowed to read even at the height of the Diaspora from Africa. The
reason for this was in the 1700s it was believed if slaves could read they
would decide they were good enough to be free and be able to plot a way to
escape and communicated with those who already had. Therefore in the 1700s it
was illegal to teach a slave to read. However as African Diaspora connived into
eh southern states of the US many slaves did in fat learn to read and write.

They did not in secret but it was a part of the new African Diaspora culture.
The African Diaspora developed a culture in
America that would live until today. We often hear the songs as we walk down
the street, or we wee the children paying the African games that came form
their ancestors who were forced here during the Diaspora.
The African Diaspora was a movement that
began centuries before it came to the US. However, once it came to the US it
exploded and the people turned a blind eye to the facts that were before them.

African Diaspora involved the stealing and selling of Africans for the purpose
of being slaves in the southern united states. While they were here the new
culture developed out of habit and need. The late 1700s were an interesting
time because many of the slaves were first generation Africans who could
remember the culture and traditions of the homeland. However, as time went
forward and they did not get hone and overseers made their lives rough for not
trying to adapt to the US they began to incorporate new cultural ideas into the
old school of thought. The result was that a new culture was borne of the
African Diaspora. The new traditions took hold and the next generation
continued to add to them. In addition we often forced the African slaves to
comply with our traditions and cultural beliefs and ideas. If they did not they
were beaten or lolled or their children were sold out from under them as
The development of the new culture was for
necessity and survival and many of the traditions today had life saving meaning
back then. The music the food and the games were all adapted to the United
States way of life and the life of an owned human being. Many of the developed
cultural traditions involved survival as well as attempt to create some sense
of normalcy for the children who were born into slavery. Today many of the
music trains and art traditions remain a part of the African American culture.

And the blending of the old and new back when the 1700s were the present is
what caused the things we observe today.

African Slave
Trade(accessed 4-17-2001)
__________. ,
BLACK HISTORY TIMELINE; This look at African American history will continue
throughout the month in KidsPost.. , The
Washington Post, (2001): Feb pg C13.
Tom.Tempering Race and Nation: Recent Debates in Diaspora Identity
( Research in African Literatures.(1999):July
Families Accessed 4-17-2001)
music(Accessed 4-17-2001)
ships(Accessed 4-17-2001)
Sonya ,
Porter Interview: Diaspora; n. any scattering of people with a common ( AIM: Armenian International Magazine
);(1991): April


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