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How Did Slavery Dehumanized African American Culture

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The growth of the enslaved African American population directly led to an increase in domestic slave trade in the early 1800s. As a result, by 1860 a very significant amount of slaves worked on plantations in the Deep South. Hot temperatures, long work days, and harsh treatment made slave life unfathomably difficult. Families were destroyed, in fact, a third of children under the age of fourteen were separated from their parents and about a quarter of marriages were split, due to slave trade. Slavery was dehumanizing, but maintaining and creating culture and traditions was a way for slaves to have an identity, and in many ways was a resistance to the demeaning nature of slavery. By 1860, slaves in North America had developed their own unique…show more content…
Slaves often practiced the tradition of “patting the juba” in the rare occasion of leisure time. This was the tradition of creating intricate rhythms by clapping hands. Music was a defining characteristic of slave culture. Instruments such as drums and rattles made out of gourds were typically created and used by slaves to produce unique music. However, South Carolina banned the beating of drums in 1739 because white slaveowners were afraid that the rhythms would inspire a rebellion. Still, African American music remained a part of slave culture and is influential in modern music. Songs on Southern cotton plantations were often in a call-response format and were used to lift their spirits, pace their work, and for them to express themselves. To avoid punishment for expressing their true feeling for their masters, they often used code words or symbols in the lyrics. In one version of a work song called “Hoe Emma Hoe,” the slaves referred to the master or overseer as a possum. The song expresses how the slaves felt that they worked harder than their overseer and it represents their frustration with how the masters did nothing while the slaves worked long and hard on the plantation. Also, former slave, Tempe Herndon Durham recalled “De cardin' an' spinnin' room was full of niggers. I can hear dem spinnin' wheels now turnin' roun' an' sayin' hum-m-m-m, hum-m-m-m, an' hear de slaves singin' while dey spin.” Durham’s specific mention of songs, reveal that songs were an essential and defining part of slave culture. Despite legal restrictions with the ban on drums, and lyrical restrictions, as slaves had to use code words in their songs to truly express themselves, African American music and songs remained a strong, significant part of slave
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