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Africana Archives: Excerpts:
African Influences in African American Culture

African Voices/African Roots

Africans in the New World are a people with strong ties to ancestry and traditions. Throughout the Diaspora, the African maintained some degree of his past, imparting it to the future in African tales of trickster animals and larger than life heroes, in naming practices, children’s games and front porch stories told to generations of children of the strong men and women who came before them. The traditions and folklore came to the New World with us in bits and pieces imparted from one to another on the ships and in the fields and in the quarters at night.

Brer Rabbit and Ananzi made the voyage with us. What many consider as superstitions are remnants of our African heritage and are still present in our daily lives. In all the countries of the Diaspora some form of African spiritualism exists. Cuba has Mogambo, Puerto Rico, Santeria, Haiti Voodoo, Brazilians and Condomble and our own Southern form, Hoodoo.Often, these were stories shared in secret. Funeral practices, dances, games, honoring ancestors and spirit worship whose origins are distinctly African became our first Gumbo with ingredients from all of West Africa to form our unique new ethnicity as African Americans. And we enriched it with our New World heroes from John the Conquerer to Shine on the Titanic. Enjoy these stories and pass them along.

And if you recall folklore and superstitions that have come down from your own family elders. Honor the tradition of the African Griot or Jeliba. Retell them.

African Voices in the African American Heritage

© 2003, by Betty M. Kuyk. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Reproduced by Permission of Indiana University Press. Used by permission of the author and publisher. May not be presented in any form elsewhere without permission from copyright holders.

It was "not the English," Sam Gadsden emphasized. "It was the Dutch." Those were the people who brought his great-grandfather's family to this country. He reported the story as it was given to him by his grandaunt, his grandmother Rebecca's sister. The girls were daughters of Gadsden's great-grandfather, Kwibo Tom. They all came to the Sea Islands together.

Gadsden said that Kwibo Tom's father, whose name was Tom, was a "chief" among his people in the Kongo. They knew "all about where to find elephants" and how to get the tusks. At the same time "they didn't know much about cloth." Tom's family lived "in the Kongo," where the Dutch wanted to buy "elephant teeth ... and elephant bones and things," so they went into the are to trade "nice flowered cloth ... and pretty things ... and trinkets" for tusks. MORE

And I'm Glad: An Oral History of Edisto Island

© 2000, Transcribed by Nick Lindsay. Published by Tempus Publishing. © Text, Nick Lindsay. © Photographs, Julia Cart. Used by permission of the author and publisher. May not be presented in any form elsewhere without permission from copyright holders.

Kwibo Tom and His Brother Wallie

The world was full of pirates in those days. Nobody should admit to pirate blood, because the character of a pilot is so bad. It’s worse than an animal’s They would take the goods and the ship and all, and haul them about, kill the people or sell them into slavery. If anybody resisted, they would kill them and throw them into the sea.

In the beginning, when my people immigrate to America, it was a Dutchman who brought them. He was a pirate. He had colored pirates with him. All of them been working in piracy on the high sea. He had the colored pirates go and get the Negros fro Africa and make a trade of them. They brought them back into America around this section where there were plenty of new plantations being built, plenty of work going on. That Dutchman was a salesman: he taught the settlers that these Negroes from Africa knew more about cleaning up land than any of the white people did no matter how they would try. The country was wild then and they needed help. He told them, “Let those Africans come; they will make good laboring people for you. I will bring them here; you can put them in slavery and let them do all the rough work.” MORE

From My People: 400 Years of African American Folklore

© 2002, by Daryl Cumber Dance. W.W. Norton and Co. Used by permission of the author and publisher. May not be presented in any form elsewhere without permission from copyright holders.

Ruthville Post Office

This is my account of a legend known by everyone in my family regarding the naming of local post office, the only one found by the United States Commission of Civil Rights (which studied the Southern counties in the Black Belt between 1959 and 1961) to have a Negro postmistress. It is very likely that Ruthville Post Office had held that distinction for many years – in fact, it had Black postmasters and postmistresses for most of the twentieth century. MORE

Preview These Recommended Titles at Google Book Search:

The Roots of African-American Identity: Memory and History in Free Antebellum Communities by Elizabeth Rauh Bethel

Chicken Soup for the African American Soul: Celebrating and Sharing Our Culture One Story at a Time by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Lisa Nichols

Understanding Storytelling Among African American Children: A Journey from Africa to America by Tempii B. Champion

African-American Exploration in West Africa: Four Nineteenth-Century Diaries by James Fairhead

A Dictionary and Catalog of African American Folklife of the South by Sherman E. Pyatt, Alan Johns

African Roots/American Cultures: Africa in the creation of the Americas by Sheila S. Walker

Read Excerpts from These Recommended Titles at

A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore: The Oral Literature, Traditions, Recollections, Legends, Tales, Songs, Religious Beliefs, Customs, Sayings and Humor of Peoples of African American Descent in the Americas by Harold Courlander (Editor)

History and Memory in African-American Culture by Genevieve Fabre (Editor), Robert O'Meally (Editor)

The Welcome Table : African-American Heritage Cooking (Paperback) by Jessica B. Harris

Passed on: African American Mourning Stories: A Memorial (John Hope Franklin Center Book) by Karla F. C. Holloway

Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America: Volume I: African Roots Through the Civil War by James Oliver Horton, Lois E. Horton

Souls Grown Deep, Vol. 1: African American Vernacular Art of the South: The Tree Gave the Dove a Leaf by Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Paul Arnett (Editor), William Arnett (Editor)

African-American Folktales (American Storytelling Paperback) by Richard Young

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