Black Culture and Diversity

December 13, 2017

Blacks in America often carried musical traditions from Africa into church on Sunday. This included extensive singing, and some dancing with the “Holy Ghost.”


In Africa, water itself was a spirit in some religions, and so it was not difficult to accept Christianity and the tradition of Baptism. Some blacks threw themselves over board on slave ships to join the spirits of their ancestors and for them it was not considered suicide. According to Michael Dyson, African-American music is rooted in the rhythmic cadence and music of Africa. These rhythms from various parts of Africa were brought to these shores and can still be heard in the music of Blacks today. African oral practices, which were cultivated during slavery, fortified the use of music to pass on historical information, provide moral and educational lessons, to lessen the suffering of brutal slavery drivers, and to transmit messages. Also, drumming and religious songs were often coded plans to facilitate escapes from slavery.


In Africa, the naming of a child was a very extraordinary affair. Many Africans named their child seven days after the birth of that child. An abundant amount of attention went into the naming of a newborn. A number of slaves clandestinely retained their African names and referred to themselves by the country they were born in. When a specific event had meaning in the life of a slave, using holiday names was often chosen to emphasize an important day—like “Christmas, or July.” This was not necessarily done to celebrate Christ, or July 4th for example, but to celebrate a day off from hard labor in the fields on that day.


According to Michael Dyson, the aspirations to exalt their children generated names like “Redemption, Refuge, Precious, Fortune,” and the desire to gain respect often produced names like “Citizen, Major, General,” and others. All of these names reflect the creativity of an oppressed people despite the horrors of white supremacy. When the slave master’s wife urged slaves to pray for the defeat of Union and the northern armies, blacks often pretended to do this, and often prayed for a northern victory and the death of their master. Religious holidays were often viewed as special in only the fact that they were given that day off from slave work and not for the said determination of that day.


Since many Africans believed in water spirits, Christian Baptism was welcome on their own terms and belief systems. Today, Baptism in a Black church is still a big event for many different reason and not just the traditional or spiritual reasons. As a result of Baptism being accidently special to African customs, several colonial legislatures passed laws to prevent blacks from being baptized. Also, African naming practices included naming children after important dates, seasons, times, or days. “Easter, Wednesday, June, Morning, etc. According to Michael Dyson, African tribal names sometimes sounded similar to English names—like “Becky for Beke, Fantee for Fanti,” and others. Blacks during slavery, and when freed often chose the names “Freeman, Newman, Liberty, and John Brown.


African traditions also used names like “Blossom, Morning, Cotton, Storm, Freeze, all reflecting the time of birth. This is the reason why many blacks have unusual names– a leftover from Africa and the morphing of names under difficult circumstances. Other Black children had names and nicknames


 after African spiritual totems like “Frog, Bear, and Cat-Fish.” We all had friends with this nick names like this. Also, speaking and playing with words was an African tradition. Signifyin’ is a form of wordplay which involves a verbal strategy of misdirection that exploits the differences between the literal and figurative meaning of a word.


During Christmas and other holidays food is very important. By mixing and cooking leftover ingredients from their white slave masters, blacks put together dishes that were quite tasty, African Americans took the bad food they were given and created desirable dishes. Through the sharing of this food at gatherings, they not only shared the food, but also the experience and attachments that foster community unity.


There are plenty of food crops that come from Africa. These crops include; rice, okra, black-eyed peas, watermelons, yams, kidney beans, and lima beans. It is an irony that during the Civil War, the slave owning class and their armies were forced to eat slave food, the same food that many of them felt was only fit for animals and blacks. After General Sherman burned slave owner crops, except for the peas, it developed the tradition of being good luck on New Year’s Day.  Of course, blacks had no trouble fixing black-eyed peas so that they were good and tasty. Black slaves that were liberated from slavery saw them as good luck for them as well, as General Sherman waylaid the Confederacy and crushed the backbone of the southern slave owners.




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