July 6, 2020 in History
The Slave Community

John Blassingame has written The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South in 1972 and this book is commonly viewed as one of the first studies, focused on the slavery in the US from the enslaved perspective. With the philosophy use, Blassingame analyzed the slaves` live in the 19th century and described how the independent culture developed in such conditions. Hence, this paper is focused on the slaves’ lives in the 19th century on the southern plantations and their cultural development in those conditions.

In the 19th-century, slaves` lives on the southern plantations were extremely difficult. In general, they were housed, fed and clothed minimally, only to be sure that they would survive and do their work. The enslaved people were living in the plantation area. Some owner provided them with the houses, while others made slaves build the houses by themselves. In such case, their building was quite similar to the houses they had had in Africa. The living conditions were terrible and in one place sometimes were around ten peoples living together. Their beds were made of the old rags or straw. Most of the enslaved people were forced to work from the sunrise to the sunset every day. Such life was terrible because everything that those people knew was the endless labor up to eighteen hours per day and sometimes even longer. Only the senior citizens, children under the age of six and individuals with the disabilities were free from work. In the difficult job were involved all people and this job differentiated from the color, age, strength, gender, and birthplace. All these people were under strict control of whites and beating, and whippings were usual things. However, the owners could not control the slaves` minds. Therefore, such difficult life conditions did not remove the slave culture through the enslavement process completely. These people were persisting to the slavery with their religion, folk tales, music, dance, spirituality and language. According to Blassingame, the African culture was a way to resist the enslavement.  The historians never described the slave culture in details and any substantial information was not provided, before the Blassingame`s Slave Community. He argued that the culture that was developed in the slave community was free from the owners` impact. Moreover, the black slaves managed to create some unique cultural forms they were focused on their oppression burden, provided verbalizing aggression ways, self-esteem building, sustaining hope, promoted the group solidarity and very often represented their lives free of the whites` control.

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As it was already mentioned, the religion possessed an important part of the life of the black slaves in the South. In fact, all religious groups supported the slavery. Moreover, it got wedged into the life of the society to such an extent that in the South black people were not allowed to attend the church services. The main reasons for the owners` desire to keep their slaves from the churches and to become Christians included the Bible. They were afraid that the slaves could interpret Christ`s teachings in the equality favor. Hence, because of this, the owners were doing everything to stop the slaves from learning to read. However, it is impossible to say that the enslaved people did not have the religion at all because they bring their unique religion that was another way to stay independent from the owners` control. The slaves` religion roots began from such African tribes as Igbo and Yoruba and after they blended with Christianity, was developed a new blended faith. Such Christian’s symbols as crosses were mixed with the traditional African charms that are supposed to protect from evil. In the end, African spiritual beliefs were transformed in the voodoo. Despite the Christians slave-owners and missionaries` attempts to erase the African religious beliefs and religion, the African religion turned into voodoo. Hence, the voodoo conjurers and priests promised the slaves to make their master king, ensure love, harm enemies and heal sickness. That was completely independent religious that included graves’ decorating, funeral rite and ritualistic singing and dancing. Dances and songs were particularly important. In general, the slave religion was a source of the communal and individual comfort, and it was a way to survive the slavery brutality. After some time, the religion also was used as the tool to critique the enslavement institute publicly and the African Americans` dehumanization in the society. Due to the religion the slaves` minds were free from the owners` control. Moreover, it would be impossible to survive the slavery without the faith in some higher powers. Exactly due to this, the enslaved people managed not only to save the inside independence but also to create and develop the new culture and religion that were unique. Hence, it is critical to notice that the religion played a great role in the slave communities.

One of the most critical black folk culture`s elements was music. As it was already mentioned before, the music played a great role in the slaves` lives. It was so important for the slaves that the state government and owners even tried to prevent the enslaved people from making or playing the musical instruments. The main reason for such behavior was because the drums were the signal of the Stono Rebellion in 1793. However, that author emphasized that regardless of such restrictions the slaves managed to build and develop the great musical tradition.  Moreover, all the songs, music and dances were very similar to those that were played or performed in Africa. The instruments that were reproduced by the slaves included gourd rattles, drums, mandolins and three-stringed banjos. Especially music was highly important for the early slave uprisings` organizations, and drums in this situation were used just as in Africa for the communication. Slaves were using the drums to spread the messages in a rhythmic language, and the owners hated it. Hence, there was placed a tight connection between the communication, resistances and drumming and it was decided that to provide the province safety it was critical to restrain the slaves from the drums` use. Such refusal has caused the weakened tights with the music. The event was particularly harmful as mainly music was a crucial issue in the slave communities` lives. To change that situation, the slaves managed to develop some ways if the drums` imitation by contriving the creating rhythms` new means. Therefore, the enslaved people started to use all rhythm-making things that were under their hands, such as household items like jugs, spoons and washboards, European instruments and sometimes even their bodies were used as the percussive surfaces in the style, called slapping Juba or patting Juba. Intricate vocal styles and some peculiar rhythms have become the options that imitated the drum patterns. Hence, even when the owners took away from the enslaved people the instruments that were vital to their life, the slaves did not surrender their musical traditions by abandoning the African rhythms but managed not to give up and adapt the known rhythms to the new instruments.

Overall, it is critical to notice that slaves` lives were tough and in order to survive this slavery, people had to develop their own culture and religion. Mainly this culture became a unique and peculiar way to resist the slavery. It means that the black slaves developed the own religion that helped that not surrender their minds to the owners` control and to keep the faith in the batter destiny. Another way to resist the slavery was the music that helped not only to save the own culture but also to survive the difficult life conditions physically and morally.


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