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Title: Singing for Strength: Enslaved Africans and Community Building in the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Authors: Landers, Jane G.
Moore, J. Hunter
Keywords: Slave
Issue Date: Apr-2009
Publisher: Vanderbilt University
Abstract: Throughout the Transatlantic slave trade enslaved Africans sang. In holding pens called barracoons awaiting shipment, aboard slave ships crossing the Atlantic, and in the transatlantic colonies, singing was a common feature of daily life and special events. Many people sing, but for enslaved Africans singing may have been a means of survival. Slaves often found themselves surrounded by other slaves with whom they had no prior social relationship. Singing would have enabled them to create an immediate sense of community, mitigating the effects of the severe dislocation they suffered. Singing also helped to preserve a sense of community among slaves once they were settled in the colonies. Contemporary accounts attest to the importance of both singing and community in West Africa, the source for the majority of slaves in the transatlantic trade. Similar evidence exists for African slaves in the British colonies of the Caribbean and North America as well as for their descendants. Finally, a positive view of the creative adaptation or "creolization" of cultural forms by enslaved Africans is compared with earlier analyses that described it as being purely destructive.
Description: Student research for MLAS course. This paper examines singing by enslaved Africans in the Transatlantic slave trade, the importance of singing to the people of West Africa, and its importance to the descendants of enslaved Africans in the Transatlantic colonies and United States. Written for MLAS 270 33: New Methods, New Discoveries, and New Interpretations in Slavery Studies with Prof. Jane Landers, Spring 2009. Paper includes a bibliography.
Appears in Collections:MLAS Student Research
Graduate Student Research Symposium

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