African American Language In Shakespeare's The Drinking Gourd

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power” (Carter 28). Walter thus turns his back on White racist tradition boldly standing up to them. He has his traditions, race, pride and family behind him to carry on the struggle. The language used in The Drinking Gourd, a play set in the antebellum south also makes an interesting study. The play is set at a time when the African Americans were not allowed to read and write. The slaves came from different parts of Africa and from different cultures speaking different languages. Hence, in order to communicate they had to imitate their masters and create a kind of English that they could all understand. That language came to be conditioned by their African culture and American experience. It had many more words than the plantation vocabulary. It was enriched by ambiguity, poetry, simplicity, variety and realism. It had a beautiful rhythmic flow. African American English was in the making. Just as we see in A Raisin in the Sun, the uneducated characters in Hiram’s plantation speak the crude but nevertheless poetic form of African American English. The myth of the “contented” slave that the white man perpetrated probably to ease his conscience is seen in all its beauty and simplicity in the first scene of The Drinking Gourd, where the six year old Tommy teaches Hannibal to read and write, while Hannibal teaches him to play the Banjo. The scene is calm and serene but the myth is exploded when Everett comes upon the two and blinds Hannibal for breaking a slave code. Everett

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