The Myth Of The Negro Past Analysis

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Throughout chapter three of The Myth of the Negro Past, Melville Herkovits writes about the African culture back before slaves were brought to the Americas. He refutes many previously thought ideas that African Americans have no past or shared culture which the myth in the title of the book. In chapter three entitled, “The African Cultural Heritage,” Herskovits argued that African Americans descended from a people with a rich series of cultural traditions (Willaims 3). One of the aspects that Herkovits looks into is death in the African family and funerals rites. The ties between ancestors and gods are extremely close in Dahomey and the Yoruba cultures, he even says the power of man doesn’t end when that person dies, these dead ancestors actually…show more content…
It was once believed that the languages that the Africans spoke varied drastically from region to region but in reality they were “local variations of a deeper-lying structural similarity” (Herkovits 79). This similarity allowed communicating in the New World to be easier than if the languages were all completely linguistically independent, “whether Negro speech employs English or French or Spanish or Portuguese vocabulary, the identical constructions found over all the New World can only be regarded as a reflection of the underlying similarities in grammar and idiom, which, in turn, are common to the West African Sudanese tongues” (80). Language then became an important part of African American culture, whether it be a “secret” language used to help slaves escape, or to tell stories and folklore to children to encourage and motivate them, or express African proverbs from generation to generation. There has been many times when other races seem not to understand what African Americans are saying because of the slang terms we create that then become popular terms, most recently has been the phrases “on fleek” and “twerking”, to name a few examples. Being proficient in verbal arts was prized in Africa and now a value has been placed on verbal expression in today’s culture through riddles and through preaching and teaching (Williams…show more content…
He stated that because polygyny is so deep-rooted in African culture it causes the aberrant family relationships found in present day African Americans. In his argument he states that because a man has several wives the children are closer to their mother because they only have to share their mother with the other children she conceived while it is a constant fight to get their father’s attention and inheritance (Herkovits 64). I personally do not agree with Herkovits in his attempt to link polygamous ancestors to the family structure of today. I know it is a rampant issue in today’s society of the absence of fathers in the African American home, but I do not see polygyny being the cause of it. Mothers are close to their children because the child grows in their mother’s womb for nine months and their mother would breast feeds them, this causes a close relationship from conception, not because the father had so many children from so many
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