Slavery in America and its legacy
Many people do not realize that the United States endorsed slavery until the 1860’s. African slaves were part of the triangle trade between Africa and the Americas. The United States has always been divided in all sorts of ways. The main division concerning slavery is North and South. The Northern United States was more industrial than the South, thus slavery was abolished sooner in Northern States than in Southern States. The South was more agrarian with major commodities such as cotton, tobacco and other labor intensive crops being grown on plantations. The importation of slaves ceased in the beginning of the 19th century.
These slaves were not taught how to read nor write. Indeed, in many southern states, it was illegal for a master to allow his slaves to be educated at all. Consequently, a pigeon English developed which would later evolve into Black English or African American Vernacular. To this day, Black English is a distinct dialect from Standard English. Slaves were fed the fattiest cuts of an animal along with portions that were considered inedible by their masters. Along with this, slaves grew their own vegetables on the plantation to supplement the scraps that they received from the plantation owners.
Though educating slaves was either frowned upon or illegal, Christianity in the form of the Southern Baptist denomination was inculcated in most slave communities in different plantations. The reasons for this religious inculcation was to affirm the supremacy of a white master over his black “children” and also to encourage family bonding within the slave community; such family bonding prevented escapes by individual slaves.
The slaves had their own hierarchy based on skin tone. The house ******* were slaves that were generally the product of a white master and black female slave. Slaves were treated as sexual property as well as chattel. The light skinned child of a slave master was considered a slave, thus could be placed on the auction block for sale. Some masters accepted their children, educating them and officially including them in the family. The field ******* were darker skinned slaves that had little admixture of white blood in them.
These different facets exist to this day. In the black community, light skin is prized while dark skin is frowned upon. Indeed, hair straightening products along with soaps, creams that lighten one’s complexion are strong sellers in the black community. In black society, there was and still is an informal paper bag test: a black individual is deemed more acceptable if they are not as dark as a brown paper bag. Indeed, lighter skinned blacks are usually found in the upper portion of the black community.
The vast majority of blacks still understand Black English, with most being able to speak it regardless of their social class. Most blacks can be recognized simply by the way that they speak English. Many educated blacks of today can perform what is called Code Switching, a concept upon which they can toggle between Standard English and Black English.
Black cuisine or Soul Food as it is known today remains largely intact. It is a high calorie, high fat cuisine designed to sustain a worker during a 12-16 hour day of physical labor. Unfortunately, Blacks suffer from high rates of maladies such as diabetes because the nature of their labor has changed while their diets concerning Soul Food have not.
Also, even though things are changing slowly, black woman/white man relationships are frowned upon in the black community because of the history mentioned above. Sadly, what has changed the slowest would be the segregated nature of black neighborhoods. The majority of blacks live with other blacks. These areas tend to be more affordable than main stream areas.
Not only do the vast majority of blacks belong to the Southern Baptist denomination, they tended to adopt their masters’ names. English names such as Blair, Johnson, Preston, etc. gives someone a clue about the ethnic origins of slave masters: English, Welsh and Scottish—the ones who settled the USA the earliest in the agrarian South.