The Influence of Black Slave Culture on Early America

Essay by jlea0002High School, 12th grade April 2004

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The Black slaves of colonial America brought their own culture from Africa to

the new land. Despite their persecution, the "slave culture" has contributed

greatly to the development of America's own music, dance, art, and clothing.


It is understandable that when Africans were torn from their homes and families,

lashed into submission , and forced into lifelong slave labor, they would be, on

the most part, resentful and angry. Various forms of expression, clandestine

yet lucent, developed out of these feelings. One such form was music. Native

African music consisted mainly of wind and string melodies punctuated by hand

clapping, xylophones, and drum beats. Along those lines, an early type of

slave music was the spiritual, which has its roots in Protestant hymns taught to

the slaves. Spirituals were "long thought to be the spontaneous creation of

African-American slaves and the only original folk music of the U.S."

Spirituals told tales of suffering and struggle, but these true meanings were

often hidden.

An example is in the song "Gospel Train" with the lyrics, "Get on

board, little children/There's room for many a-more/The gospel train's a-leavin'

..." The "gospel train" of the song likely represented an escape method, such

as the Underground Railroad. Another type of music distinct to African slaves

was gospel. These songs originated in plantation fields as work songs, and were

later sung in churches of Black congregations. They were intended to enliven a

crowd, and employed bright music and joyful lyrics. Gospel music contributed to

the development of musical genres historically considered "white", such as rock'

n'roll and country and western.


Before Blacks came to America, they had their own highly developed

religious beliefs. Most cultures believed in one almighty God, and the ideas of

good and evil. They also practiced "ancestor worship", believing that...