Blank Slates In African-American History

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Tabula rasa means “blank slate” and in reference to African-American history it is the belief that slaves in the Americas had no history, religion, or culture. Westerners were conditioned to assume that Africans came to the America’s with the purposed to be cleansed, molded, and shaped, into civilized beings. Docility was believed to be a common trait amongst slaves, it was the belief that since slaves were blank slates, they were easily manageable and teachable, that they were obedient and eager to please. Whereas it was believed that all ties were severed from African when a slave crossed the middle passage, African-American culture and traditions make that a difficult argument to justify. Through African-American music, such as slave spirituals and gospel, slave spirituality, and slave folk tales, the idea of slaves being blank slates and the idea that slaves were docile are challenged.
Slave music, particularly negro spirituals, played an important role in undermining white society and challenge the idea of slave docility. Slave spirituals conveyed the hardships of slavery and were used to not only as a way of communicating with other slaves, but also as a method of control over their slave labor. Slaves would change the tempo of the song to match the pace they wanted to work. If they wanted to get work done fast the song would be sung faster, if the slaves wanted to work
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Another common trait between African tales and the slave tales were the animal trickster tales. In Africa, animal trickster tales have always been told and is a part of African culture, just as the slaves have Br’er rabbit, in Africa they had Anansi the spider. Even though the slave in America were far away from Africa, the African tradition and way of story-telling were still the
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