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African Diaspora Essay

1631 words - 7 pages

African Diaspora

The study of cultures in the African Diaspora is relatively
young. Slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade brought numerous
Africans, under forced and brutal conditions, to the New World. Of
particular interest to many recent historians and Africanists is the
extent to which Africans were able to transfer, retain, modify or
transform their cultures under the conditions of their new
environments. Three main schools of thought have emerged in scholarly
discussion and research on this topic. Some argue that there are no
significant connections between Africans and African American
communities in the Americas. Others argue that Africans retained
significant aspects of their cultures. Similar to this argument, some
have argued that Africans, responding to their new environments,
retained and transformed African cultures into new African-American
ethnic units.

Detailed research done on slave communities in Surinam, South
Carolina and Louisiana allow us to look deeper into the stated
arguments. Having recently addressed the same issues using Colonial
South Carolina as a case study, I will focus largely on some of the
arguments and conclusions drawn from this study. The evidence from
South Carolina, Louisiana and Surinam supports the second and third
arguments much more than the first. The third argument, that of
cultural transformation, is the argument I find to be most valid.

John Thornton's analysis of this issue is extremely helpful.

He addresses the "no connections" arguments in chapters 6, 7 and 8. He
outlines the claims made by scholars Franklin Frazier, Stanley Elkins,
Sidney Mintz and Richard Price. Frazier and Mintz believe that the
extreme trauma and disruption experienced by Africans during the
process of enslavement and the middle passage minimized the
possibility that they maintained aspects of their cultures in the new
world. They argue that this process "had the effect of traumatizing
and marginalizing them, so that they would became cultural receptacles
rather than donors" (152).

Mintz and Price have argued the slave trade had the effect of
"permanently breaking numerous social bonds that had tied Africans
together..." (153). Another element of the "no connections" argument
claims that Africans did not receive enough associational time with
each other or with those of similar ethnic backgrounds to ensure
survival of cultural practices. Drawing largely upon the study of
Anthropology, Thornton attempts to outline conditions for cultural
survival and transformation. He contends these arguments stating that
opportunities existed for viable communities to be formed, that there
were prospects for passing on "changing cultural heritage to a new
generation through training of offspring" and that there existed
opportunities for Africans to associate with themselves (153).

Thornton finds much more evidence for cultural...

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