African American Medley of Voices
Table of Contents • belief, attitudes • geographic influences • traditions • food and feeding habits • communication and language • dress and appearance • music • concepts of beauty
Northern Migration Between the years 1900 and 1960, over 4,809,000 African-Americans fled the South’s oppressive conditions. The vast majority of these migrants settled in Northern cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York. The war years witnessed the greatest influx of Southern blacks, for the loss of labor due to military enlistment induced greater economic opportunities in Northern-based industries(The African American Great Migration).
Traditions: Juneteenth One year after the Emancipation Proclamation the slaves in Texas became aware of their freedom. Out of the celebrations that followed came the tradition of Juneteenth. Traditional celebration gatherings like baseball games and rodeos mark the day. Dressing your best is an important part of Juneteenth especially to the people who can directly trace their ancestry to the newly freed Texan slaves. A symbolic act of freedom executed by the slaves was to throw the clothes they wore in slavery into the rivers in the area. Now their descendants were their best clothes to show how far they have come from the repression their ancestors lived under. “On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official Texas state holiday through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator (History of Juneteenth).”
Food and Feeding Habits The greatest influence on many African-American families is the lifestyle of their parents or grandparents who lived in the southern United States. The society is based on religious ceremonies, feasting, cooking, and raising food. The popular term for African-American cooking is "soul food." Many of these foods are rich in nutrients, as found in collard greens and other leafy green and yellow vegetables, legumes, beans, rice, and potatoes. Other parts of the diet, however, are low in fiber, calcium, potassium, and high in fat. With high incidence of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity, some African-Americans have paid a high price for this lifestyle. Economically disadvantaged families may have no other choice but to eat what is available at low cost. (Cultural Diversity: Eating in America African-American)
Historical Contribution to American Cuisine For nearly two centuries, from 1750 to 1940, black Americans were a dominant force in the cooking industry of the United States. • They were cooks in the private kitchens of the well-to-do. • They were chefs in America's inns and hotels, on riverboats and in dining cars. • They cooked for presidents; they sold their fare on the street corners of New York City and Baltimore; they catered weddings and parties of the elite of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. (American Visions).
Communication: Call and Response • Call and Response has its roots in African American religious practice • Audience members either with or without a verbal cue repeat key words in the speaker’s oration • Members also express their appreciation for the speaker’s message while he is in the process of giving the speech. It’s not considered an interruption as it might be in other cultures. • Usually however there is some sort of cue from the speaker, e.g. “Can I get a witness?”
Communication: Ritualized Insults A game in which contestants attempt to outwit each other through a barrage of insults usually performed in rhyming verse. It started as a teaching device for the for children to remember biblical stories. The subject the dozens are usually the opponents looks or his mother(Williams).
Communication: Ebonics “On December 18, 1996, the Oakland school board unanimously approved a two-page resolution declaring black English a formal language. The resolution stated that the district's 28,000 African American students are bilingual and need to be taught in their mother tongue: Ebonics. "African Language Systems," the resolution noted, "are genetically based and not a dialect of English." After the vote, Board Director Toni Cook said: "I think we made a hell of a good beginning. What we did was go offensive and quit saying there's something wrong with a majority of the children (Heilbrunn)."
Ebonics continued “Lisa Green of the University of Texas at Austin and Orlando Taylor of Howard University, who is a consultant to the Oakland school board--trace the origins of Ebonics to African languages such as Yoruba, Ewe, Fula, Igbo and Mandinka. The consensus among these linguists is that black English is a legitimate linguistic system with a highly complex grammar and syntax that can be identified as coming out of Africa and the Caribbean (Helibrunn)”.
Communications: the ‘n’ word You know the word but don’t say it to an African American unless you are expecting an angry response. Its’ origin is from the Spanish word for black, negro, but it is a pejorative. Yet you listen to rap music and the non radio version is filled with the “n” word. What gives? Using the “n” word amongst friends has historical significance. Slaves used to verbally harden themselves to their masters abuse by using the it on each other.
Historical Influence on Clothing 1960s Feelings of racial pride and ethnic consciousness increased in African Americans during the mid-60s. This was due to the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. By the late 1960s, African Americans had begun a fashion movement designed to express pride in their physical characteristics by flaunting rather than altering or concealing their features. The realization that short of complete physical reconstruction, blacks would never be able to completely conform to white standards led to the expression "Black is Beautiful(African Influences on Western Apparel)."
Historical Influence on Clothing in the 1980s and 1990s As street fashion has become more and more important, we have seen more influence from inner city youth, African-Americans, and the music industry. Some of the trends led by these groups (It has primarily been African-American who men have led these trends) include high top sneakers worn untied, oversize T-shirts, lots of gold jewelry for men (80s), the Fade, Dreadlocks, African-inspired hats and other accessories with African maps and/or colors, and head wraps (often bandanas) for men (Tortora & Eubank, 1994).
Concepts of Beauty Starting during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, African American women rejected the traditional image of beauty - long hair, thin lips, white skin and pointed noses. For many years, African American females had struggled conform to white societies' image of feminine beauty. This standard included long straight hair. To achieve this look required the use of hot straightening combs or expensive chemical treatments. The cultivation of this image was another means of expressing the prevailing view that to be accepted one must embrace white culture(Giddings, 1990).
Beauty continued This was exemplified by African American women who let the natural texture of their hair show and had it cut and shaped in African styles. The Afro, also referred to as the “natural", became a symbol of black identity and pride as an African American. The Afro was popularized by civil rights workers and Black Nationalists as well as actresses and singers (Beautyworlds.com).
Conclusion The novels that were read that were based in this culture introduced us to the aspects of the culture that we included in our cultural overview presentation. We have learned that there is so much to any one culture and that there is no way to know all about one culture; however, we have learned to appreciate some aspects of the culture we studied We also learned that people that are part of culture do not always participate in all the aspects of a culture A culture is a medley of individual voices not just one voice
Bibliography African Influences on Western Apparel, http://udel.edu/~orzada/africa.htm,September 27, 2001 American Visions, http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m1546/n4_v13/21068800/p1/article.jhtml, September 27, 2001. An Introduction to the Church in the Southern Black Community, http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/introduction.html, September 27, 2001. Beautyworlds.com: The Culture of Beauty,http://www.beautyworlds.com/fatlikeme.htm,September 27, 2001. “Black Music” , Encarta, ed. 2001. Calhoun-Brown, Allison Upon this Rock: The Black Church, Nonviolence, and the Civil Rights Movement, http://www.apsanet.org/PS/june00/calhoun.cfm,October 16, 2001. "Call and Response", Encarta, ed. 2001 Cultural Diversity: Eating in America African-AmericanHYG-5250-95, June Ewing, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5250.html, September 27, 2001. Heilbrunn, Jacob, “Ebonics: it's worse than you think.”, The New Republic, 20 Jan 1997. History of Juneteenth, http://www.elecvillage.com/juneteen.htm, September 27, 2001. The African American Great Migration, http://www.northbysouth.org/,September 27, 2001. Williams, Michael W., ed., The African American Encyclopedia, vol. 2, Marshall Cavendish, New York,September 27, 2001.