Decline of African Heritage in


Certainly the shortcuts and modified pronunciation led English-speaking Caucasians to consider these people as "childlike" and unable to talk properly. The religious rituals revolved around a "call-and-response fashion" of the preaching (which to some degree still is practices in black churches) with compelling musical rhythms that "often expressed a veiled cry for freedom" (Pollitzer, 8).

When a Gullah man crosses his arms "decisively over his chest," it signaled the end of an argument; body language like this is mostly lost as practice today in the African-American community (Pollitzer, 9). And names like "Cudjoe, Cubbenah, Quaco, Quao, Cuffee, Quamin, and Quashee" are no longer used, and those names -- "true to the ancestral naming pattern" -- were given to children based on the day of the week the child was born (Pollitzer, 55).

The National Park Service (NPS) published a scholarly research article pointing out that one of the things that certainly got lost regarding the African Heritage was the social history and cultural achievements of many of the different African cultures. The "need to reinforce notions of white supremacy, African inferiority and African enslavement resulted in a legacy of historical omissions" (NPS).

The European worldview was the justification for enslaving Africans, the NPS explains, and moreover, "…the knowledge of African social history and culture" was wiped away in large part (NPS). It's also important to note that most African cultures passed on historical knowledge through "oral traditions" and so the much was not written down about African culture. What was written down during the initial years of slave trade was written in Greek, Arabic, and Portuguese. Another reason for the way African heritage was lost was due to social scientists' incompetence or sloppy research.

African-American sociologist E. Franklin Frazier is said to have misinterpreted the cultural patterns of Africans; he "…viewed African-American social and cultural patterns as pathological if they differed from euro-American standard behaviors" (NPS). Moreover, many social scientists projected a pathological view of "Negroes" because those scientists ascribed "deviations from European cultural behaviors" that blacks showed as a result of their slavery experience to be their culture.

Anthropologist Melville Jean Herskovits writes that "Historical scholars have for years considered the problem of the African origins of the slaves" and yet they did not have "knowledge of the cultures of the regions…and hence were unable to "validate their hypotheses" (Herskovits, 1990, 34).

In conclusion, there are myriad opinions and articles depicting the African heritages of slaves brought to America; one of those opinions is expressed by William Wright: "Black slaves in America lost numerous ethnic identities over the courts of their enslavement" albeit these slaves did not seek to 'reclaim their lost African heritage' as John Henrik Clarke had asserted in his book (Wright, 2002). For many slaves, they did indeed try to hold on to their tribal (ethnic), clan, family, or village traits, but that was made problematic by their enslavement and forced assimilation.

Works Cited

Herskovits, Melville Jean. (1990). The Myth of the Negro Past.

Ypsilanti, MI: Beacon Press.

Kuyk, Betty M. (2003). African Voices in the African-American

Heritage. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

National Park Service. (2008). Exchanging People for Trade

Goods / Ethnography Program. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from

Pollitzer, William S., and Moltke-Hansen, David. (2005). The

Gullah People and Their African Heritage. Athens, GA:

Wright, William D. (2002). Black History and…