Music and Religion in African-American Slave Culture
The buying, selling, and trading of human beings for personal labor, slavery, is often thought to be simplemindedly the most atrocious thing that mankind as a whole has created.
The horrors these innocent men, women, and children faced on a day to day basis was paralleled perhaps only by the soldiers fighting the war over their freedom. Though slavery was full of negatives, it also blossomed with positives as a means to cope. African-American slaves used several aspects of their native African culture to cope, two primary components being music and religion.Slaves worked under constant thatch by their owners, constantly fearing punishment for a slip-up. Enslaved African-Americans obviously resented the way they were being treated, and devised ways to rebel against their owners right under their noses. Reaching back to their African roots, Slaves sang seemingly harmless songs to one another as they worked under the sweltering sun. Little did their owners know that the slaves had weaved intricate secret messages into their lyrical pieces, such as metaphors intended to ridicule their masters or to send signals to other slaves.
Their music was a mix of tribal African rhythms andAmerican religious music, as they relied heavily on their religion to cope from day to day. Even though their outlook was bleak, Slaves stayed positive in the face of sheer adversity through their faith. The most common faith among slaves was that of Christianity, the Christian doctrine being passed down from fathers to sons and so on. Initially, some slaves were not Christian, and held fast to their old polytheistic beliefs from their home, Africa. Assimilation was inevitable however, and nearly all negro slaves were converted. Their native religion did not cease to exist, but rather lived on wrought a stylized take on Christianity.They incorporated several aspects of the African religion with Christianity, such as rituals and visualization.
Sometimes both religion and music came hand in hand to the slaves, who praised their Lord through song and dance. Slaves kept their heads high in hopes of being freed someday. Even today, the influences of slave music and religion can be seen in modern religion, gospel music, hip-hop, rap, and the like. Even though slavery is a memory many try to forget, it can still be remembered positively through the culture that emerged through the confinement.