Summary Objective 14

Students will be able to discuss the culture of enslaved Americans and its impact on American culture in general. Maps to Key Concepts 5, 6, 9 & 10


What else should my students know?

14.A Religion functioned as a form of resistance for the enslaved (see Summary Objective 13, page 23).

14.B Enslaved people developed Afro-Christian traditions that blended African forms of spirituality with evangelical Christianity. 

14.C Enslaved people used the Christian message of God’s love and the promise of a spiritual paradise to express their own desire for freedom in this world and the next. They also called on this idea to resist enslavers’ use of religion as a justification for slavery.

14.D Folk stories and trickster tales were common ways to teach survival skills to enslaved children.

14.E African foodways influenced diets in slavery and continue to have an impact on American cuisine.

14.F African language patterns have continued through slavery and into modern culture.


How can I teach this?

  • Numerous spirituals illustrate the relationship between Christian allusions and imagery and the desire for freedom from enslavement. The songs “Hold the Wind” and “We’ll Soon Be Free” are two useful examples.
  • The Library of Congress has multiple online collections that include the music of enslaved people, including recordings of freedpeople singing and playing music they learned while enslaved.
  • Run, Mary, Run” was a popular spiritual that incorporated African traditions of drumming and syncopation with a message of freedom. 
  • The "Br’er Rabbit" folktales provide examples of stories that originated among the enslaved population as a way to teach survival skills to enslaved children.
  • Historian Michael Twitty has written several accessible articles on slavery and the culinary history of the American South.
  • Barbeque grew out of the culture of enslaved people as a way to use smoke and sauces with African spices to flavor the less desirable cuts of pork that enslavers gave as rations.
  • The Gullah/Geechee communities of South Carolina still have members who speak the traditional Gullah language. 
  • The "WPA Slave Narratives" contain many testimonies about how enslavers and white preachers tried to reduce the Christian message to “Don’t lie, and don’t steal.” Some narratives also contain enslaved Christians’ clear repudiation of this version of Christianity.

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