African American Literature: Call & Response, The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition- Patricia Hill: Pages 2-14

First Reading. I don’t know where the hell to start with this because there hasn’t been a class yet. That’s tomorrow. But I read a few pages. That was today. What the fuck does that word mean/ who the fuck are these people:

  • Ostensibly:  apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually. (the fuck am I going to use in a sentence with -without thinking of an ostrich, perhaps, but maybe not really. Ostensibly- that word is perhaps more than one fucking shade of grey.)
  • Doldrums: a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.
  • Calvinist (Calvinism): Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice of John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.
  • Olaudah Equiano: also known as Gustavus Vassa, was a prominent African involved in the British movement for the abolition of the slave trade. He was enslaved as a child in his home town of Essaka in what is now south eastern Nigeria, shipped to the West Indies, moved to England, and successfully purchased his freedom.His autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, depicts the horrors of slavery and influenced the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
  • Cotton Mather: Cotton Mather, FRS was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author and pamphleteer; he is often remembered for his role in the Salem witch trials.

Notes: p. 5-15: African Americans were forbidden to read and write. They were not believed to have the intellectual intelligence to create. Stories of slavery were published because African Americans always had this kind of intelligence and expressed it, once free. Slavery was seen for what it was in Equiano’s autobiography.

Europeans assumed Africans were morally and mentally inferior. They believed people of darker shades had no souls and if they did, that for certain they were destined for Hell eternally. Slave owners believed they were of a higher moral authority. Africans were brought to the New World to be saved from their damnation. With Christianity, Europeans self appointed themselves as the saviors of people who could not save themselves.

Cotton Mather believed slavery supported the Master-Servant class system, therefore it was necessary. He advocated separate worship services for slaves; to be held under the supervision of white people. Calvanists believed Satan was a black man, that black skin was the mark of an Old Testament curse.

“Slavery, racism, and extreme social separation were fueled both by the hysteria about indigenous witchcraft and by deep suspicion about the purportedly mysterious powers of African ‘Heathenism'”. (Heathenism:  the unconverted. One who is regarded as irreligious, uncivilized, or unenlightened.)

The beliefs held against African Americans was that they were closest to: Bestiality, ignorance, evil. Farthest from: God, the light, perceptions of absolute truth, educable genius. (Bestiality: savagely cruel or depraved behavior. also means sex between animal and human.)

This was supported by 18th century Eurocentric view of Universe: Great Chain of Being Theory. (It details a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life, believed to have been decreed by God. The chain starts from God and progresses downward to angels, demons (fallen/renegade angels), stars, moon, kings, princes, nobles, men, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees, other plants, precious stones, precious metals, and other minerals.)

New World Colonists, derived from the Calvanist doctrine, that God provided them the Africans to make it easier for them to make use and benefit from the resources of the New World.

Black oral tradition- evolved and functioned as a way to resist cultural assimilation. (To remain who they were)

African worldview was embedded in: religious beliefs, folklore and music. Slave folk music was not formally documented until the civil war. Slaves proverbs have both African and Euro American origins. 122 proverbs were brought directly from Africa. *(J.Mason Brewer) American Negro Foklore (1968) & Southern workman (1872-1900).

Proverb: “Don’t say more with your mouth than your back can stand”

“Black artists used their master’s own language (imagery, rhetoric and idiom) to house their denouncements (to condemn openly of being evil) of the masters character and practice… veiled rhetoric of indictment. (to cover with the art of persuasive speaking the formal accusation of a person committing a crime)

Hollers and shouts- Africans used to communicate to one another, send warnings, calls for food, help, water; cries of loneliness, sorrow, happiness- white people ignorant of African tradition- described the hollers an shouts as primitive, savage, barbaric. did not understand shouter’s reached pinnacle of divine essence (peak, of, from or like God, intrinsic nature of something that determines its nature, something abstract, soul, spirit.) it Holy Spirit enter their bodies and possessed their souls.

Boat songs, work songs, and secular songs represented individual expression & group empathy. The songs were
African in form plus New World Environment.

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