There was a misconception that African people did not have any culture and they were not civilized. But they had a culture that was similar to that of the Europeans and other races. However it was interrupted when the Europeans decided to take them from Africa and transplant them in America as slaves. As a result, their authentic cultures were drastically changed from the way of life in their native Africa to life in the plantation society of the Americas. In this essay, I will attempt to show how the conditions of enslavement disrupted all dimensions of the African’s authentic culture. To aid in my analysis, I will be using the “Reid Culture Conflict Model” as a guide and also drawing upon the works of Olaudah Equiano, Venture Smith, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Jacobs, and William Wells Brown, the song “Pick a Bale of Cotton” from The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, as well as from the movie NightJohn.
The family structure in Africa was complex. Men were allowed to keep many wives legally. As Venture Smith a slave from Guinea states “My father had three wives. Polygamy want not uncommon in that country, especially among the rich, as every man was allowed to keep as many wives as he could maintain” (170-171). In addition to having multiple wives, there were also a number of children and slaves. In his narrative, Oludah Equiano, an African from the village of Essaka indicates, “”My father, besides many slaves, had a numerous family, of which seven lived to grow up, including myself and a sister, who was the only daughter” (200). The family units in Africa were very close knit.
The political system in Africa consists of kings, queens, chiefs and elders, who held the authority in many villages such as in Venture’s and Equiano’s. Often times there were more than one person in charge of the government. As in the case in Oludah Equiano’s homeland, there were no kings but chief and elders who ran the government in his village. According to him, “for every transaction of the government, as far as my slender observation extended was conducted by the chief or elders of the place” (191). The political system also consisted of judges and senators in addition to the chiefs and elders. Surprisingly there were no jails and the punishment depended on the crime committed. For example, according to Equaino, “Adultery was sometimes punished with slavery or death ….” (191). Africans did not have a high tolerance for cheaters as they were penalized severely.
The economic system of rural Africa was based mainly on agriculture. Equiano indicates that “Agriculture is our chief employment; and everyone, even the children and women are engaged in it” (194). The people planted and harvested their fruits and vegetables and hunted for their meat. In addition to farming, the women had additional roles. Equiano says “When our woman are not employed with the men in tillage, their usually occupation is spinning and weaving cotton, which they...