TeacherServe Essays

Rooted in Africa, Raised in America: The Traditional Arts and Crafts of African-Americans Across Five Centuries

Author: Vlach, John Michael

Rarely do studies of slavery mention the valuable skills and tangible creations of the millions of Africans brought to the New World. Much is made—and rightly so—of African talents in storytelling, music, and dance but these modes of creative performance do not adequately describe the full range of Africa’s contributions to American culture. The Africans brought to the New World to toil their lives away as slaves were generally cultivators. They also possessed a wide range of skills that they had used for generations to wrest a living from the land and among these millions of unwilling immigrants were many skilled artisans. Labeled by Europeans as savages, these people possessed a wide array of tangible skills that would ultimately prove to be precious immigrant gifts that they would contribute to the making of the Americas.

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Subjects: Anthropology; History; Education Studies; Workmanship; Cultural History; Enslaved Persons; African History; African American History; Material Culture