The Gullah community in American slave history



it can be said that the US slave trade is seen as one of the most infamous and unjust acts of forceful displacement. Such acts not only deprived the victims from living a life of peace and contentment in their own homeland, but also resulted in a loss of the culture, language and most importantly their original way of life. In spite of this, the level of loss in cultural and linguistic origins has not been common across all the displaced communities from Africa in the United States. The Gullah people have to a large extent been able to live an isolated life as compared to their other African counterparts both in terms of cultural identity and language. This paper, through review of relevant literature, tries to bring to light and how such a state of affairs came to be. In the process, the paper will trace the history of the Gullah and other slaves on their journey from Africa and how each of these two groups resettled into their new (forced) homeland. History of slave trade in the United States: It was during the early fifteenth century that displacement of Africans as laborers (primarily in plantations) in the United States until import of new slaves were banned by an Act of Congress in 1808 (Curtis 298). Even so, imports were clandestinely carried out. Apart from this Whites could purchase slaves from other owners and also claim ownership of the children of slaves working for them. The 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery, even though their status as inferior continued on until the twentieth century until the arrival of such great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. What is to be noted is that the presence of Africans as slaves and then as free people in the United States started in the 15th century and continued to this date (a period of more than five hundred years). Having virtually no connection whatsoever with their African homeland, it is only natural that this group of aliens began assimilate the culture of their adopted land and as a result began losing their original cultural and linguistic identity. The next sections will discuss the life of the average Black people as slaves and later on as free African Americans and how these factors contributed to the social losses mentioned above. It will also discuss the unique status of the Gullah tribe taking into consideration the same parameters applied to other Africans in the country. The status of the African slaves: As mentioned earlier, slaves in Africa had no means of maintaining contact with their own people in their homeland and villages. Other factors included illiteracy which was rampant and also that they were not a cohesive group in terms of language or socio-religious customs (Klein 178). Slave trade flourished because of the lack of manpower to work in American fields and later on in business and homes. Slave owners did not apparently care about this diversity as they were only intent on obtaining cheap or free labor. As a result, even if there were groups of slaves from a single village or tribe available, most slave owners did not bother to categorize them in that manner. As a result, each farm, business or household had a set of slaves that were strangers in terms of culture and language even though they came from the same continent. Klein goes on to add that this diversity of African culture present in a single place soon led to dilution of the culture of individuals and tribes. They had

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