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Slave Culture

In: Historical Events

Submitted By TriniBarbie
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Culture refers to the way things are done in the human society, it also incorporates the behaviours and beliefs characteristic of a particular society. More broadly put it signifies what is normal or acceptable in a particular social setting. Slave culture is no different. Though African slaves were shipped from different parts of Africa as individuals, there was no accommodation for the retention of family units. This voyage of death became their common experience. The hardship endured in the crucible of the Atlantic crossing contributed to the state of mind and their view of the new world in which they were exiled. It was this new experience that began to shape the new African Culture.
Slaves from differing colonies were thrown together and forced to form communities and work groups. Work dominated their very existence. There was no consideration for their independence or their need for socialization. Family relationships forged by fellow slaves became the foundation on which slave cultural life was built. Within these family groups, not recognised by the European settlers, emerged a broadly based slave culture of beliefs, social organization, and private and communal values, which enabled slaves to cope with the rigors of their life. The promulgation of religious belief and customs was very potent in these family groups.
In the confines of the family group, young slaves were taught the religion of their ancestors referred to by the Europeans as African heathenism or obeah . Christianity, introduced by the Europeans, was couched in the community, in the context of their previously held African customs. This amalgamation of religions provided the ethical framework for the changing culture of slave life in general. Slaves gladly embraced teachings from the bible that were beneficial to them, such as the Sabbath, which provided needed rest but were not so supportive of waiting for the hope of salvation in the life hereafter.
The attachment to the family unit and other loved ones was a recurring theme of slave experience. The naming process, marriages, escape, grieving, affection for different branches of the family, and other aspects of slave life form a well woven fabric of slave family sensibility. The young were taught vital lessons needed to thrive or survive in a world filled with practical and ethical uncertainties. A slave culture emerged that was based on clear moral and practical precepts, but these precepts generally bemused slave-owners because they seemed to contradictory.
Faced with capricious blows, persistent violence, and sexual violations formed a background to slave life that young slaves had to learn to tolerate. Life’s lessons were taught at a mother’s knee and through rich folk culture of narrative, songs and memory that characterized slave communities throughout the Americas. Slave culture, then was anchored in the family and the local slave community. The closer the physical proximity of the slave family to the local whites, the more directly slave culture was affected by prevailing while values in spheres from religion to childrearing.
Slave communities were different in that they formed a world within a world. Their loyalties were not to those who demanded it, but to their families and communities, whose communal support secured their wellbeing. Slave culture was one of survival and the desire to create a sense of normalcy in the midst of great conflict.

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