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Author Topic: African-American Heritage  (Read 2215 times)

jgruber

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African-American Heritage
« on: July 10, 2004, 03:42:56 PM »
First I have to apologize for my ignorance.

I have wondered about a perception I have, that most or many AA's do not know the country from which their ancestors came.  Am I right in this?

If I am, why is that?  I can imagine that the institution of slavery worked to eliminate knowledge of slave's ancestors, but was it a strong enough institution to prevent family members from passing on this knowledge.


Lydia

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2004, 05:09:30 PM »
I could be way off here, and I apologize in advance if that's the case.  However, it's my understanding that the continent of Africa was basically divided up by European colonists in the 18th and 19th (and 20th) centuries with little to no regard for the way Africans themselves thought of their national/tribal identities.  Therefore, it's possible that African slaves might pass down what tribe or region of African they were from, but the country may have been called by a totally different name at the time of their capture and enslavement.  Of course, the white slaveowners did everything in their power to destroy any attempt on the part of their slaves to keep any aspect of their native culture alive, so of course this would have also played a large role.

Obviously I'm no expert here, so again, I hope I'm not way off...
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egfmba

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2004, 04:25:45 PM »
OT here, but Lydia, I just read your signature and got positively nauseous. 

Don't send Bush back here!  I don't want him!!!  Send him to Mars; he seems to be extremely interested in putting someone on the planet.  Why not Bush? 

Bush on Mars in '04!!!

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CaliToD.C.

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2004, 05:56:46 PM »
Lydia,

You weren't far from correct, however you should have placed a larger emphasis on the role that slavery played in destroying the cultural identity of Africans in America. From my short reach of knowledge on the subject, every African, who was born on the continent, that I know has an immense sense of cultural pride and herritage. However I cannot say the same for Africans born in America, all we know is that we came from the western part of the continent because thats where the slave trade was most prevalent. Unfortunatley, not only was slavery the greatest crime ever committed against the human race, it had a profound impact on entire people's perception of self-identification. Once this country was heavily populated with Africans white slaveowners did everything to instill fear and create a sense of dominence amongst the slaves. This is obvious today seeing that every African in America still has the original name that was given by their slavemaster.

There are of course many more factors that attribute for the lack of knowledge of self throughout the Black community but its too much to write.

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Ladyday

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2004, 06:22:29 PM »
but was it a strong enough institution to prevent family members from passing on this knowledge

to answer your question: Yes

and for many of the reasons that Lydia and Cali have already mentioned.  slaves were denied the right to practice their own religion and speak there own native language, and given their master's name.  and in an attempt to integrate and assimilate into the "popular" culture many blacks denied themselves and their children their own african heritage hoping, i guess to put it into the simpliest terms: to be accepted by the white dominate culture.  however there is one thing that did and always prevents that from completely happening: the pigment in skin.
and looking at it from another angle, when other immigrants came to America they also would try to assimilate into the dominant culture which was an easier task to do b/c they "looked" similiar, but it was also easier for them to retain their heritage b/c at least when they returned home they could speak in their "native" language and practiced rituals/customs of their culture. This was hard for slaves to do as they were worked from sun up to sun down and were often whipped for speaking in their native language.

Actually, being a person of African decent who actually has attempted to trace back my roots, it is nearly an impossible task. 

further, there is such a strong divide between being an "african" and being an "african-american".  when I traveled to west africa, myself along with other black students who went there were told with a quickness that we were not african americans but rather black americans or just americans.  it's actually quite sad.
but I could go on and on so excuse me, and don't apologize, I personally respect your honesty and curiosity, at least it's not insulting.   

jgruber

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2004, 08:06:52 PM »
It is curiousity that caused me to ask.  I'm as white as they come.  I know my ancestors came from Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland, but beyond that I don't know much about my background.  I am a fully-blended American.


One aside.  As to retaining native language, it was easier for 'white' immigrants to retain their native languages than it was for blacks, but still difficult.  Social pressure played a big role in wiping out foreign language fluency among first generation European-Americans.

My father's family came to American in 1740 and kept up fluency in German until 1917.  Pennsylvania, where our family is from, passed a law against teaching in German and other extra-legal pressures put an end to the common use of German.  After keeping the language in the family for 177 years, my grandfather's generation was the last to speak German.

But the pressure to assimilate for my ancestors is nothing compared to the crime against Africans and their descendents.  As much as I feel disconnected from my ancestors, I can imagine how hard it must be for slave descendents.

Another aside.  I have a book on my shelf waiting for me to read about what white meant in America and how it changed over the years.  Originally, Irish, Italians, Slavs and others whom we think of as white were not considered white.  There was a case of a black man in Georgia on trial for violating the racial marriage laws.  He had married a white woman.  He was acquitted when they proved that his wife was Sicilian.





Burning Sands, Esq.

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2004, 08:48:42 PM »
Jeffjoe - African Americans in this country know about as little about their ancestry as the rest of Americans know about theirs.  We're all (generally speaking) from somewhere else unless you are a Native American.  And in that case, much deference to you.

I think if you were to take a poll of the entire board, there would be very few who could tell you the exact origins of their family lineage.  For every one who can there are probably 10 that can't.

My family is from Nigeria.  Calabar, Nigeria to be exact, a few miles north of Lagos.

For some people it is impossible for them to know where they came from because nobody wrote it down. Especially for slaves in a new country who were killed if they learned to write english.
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egfmba

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2004, 09:39:23 PM »
We're all (generally speaking) from somewhere else unless you are a Native American.

This brings up an interesting point (for me, at least).  Native Americans aren't the only indigenous people in this country...

I'm from Texas.  My ancestry is Mexican.  I'm sure everyone remembers that much of the southern part of the country was Mexican territory before it became parts of the U.S.  

As my grandmother says, "We were here before Texas was Texas."  My family tree runs back to well before Santa Anna (with whom my ancestors fought).  Each year at our family reunion, our uncle breaks out this huge binder and adds new members.  It's really pretty interesting, especially when you think about the fact that my family has been in the same area for hundreds of years!

Though, technically, the Mexican people are derived from Spaniards and Native Americans.  Just an afterthought...
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flecktone

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2004, 10:29:09 AM »
We're all (generally speaking) from somewhere else unless you are a Native American. 


Literally speaking, we're all native Americans, unless we were born somewhere else.  The people we refer to as Native Americans are believed to have migrated from South America and Asia, so they are no more indigenous than any other ethnic group in this country. 

Lydia

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Re: African-American Heritage
« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2004, 11:42:09 AM »
Flecktone:  though Native Americans may have migrated from Asia, they had been living on the North and South American continents for thousands of years before the Europeans showed up and destroyed their way of life and killed them.  Though, technically, they might not be more indigenous than, say, a white person who was born here, the "collective" cultural experience of those people we think of as Native Americans is, and has been, drastically different and unique. 

That said, is someone who is born in, say, Ireland, but grows up and lives in the US a "native" American, or a "native" Irish? 

Egfmba - I'm sorry!  I had intention of offending Texans!  I'll change the signature now... ;D
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