Due to the many hardships of slavery, the community had to invent strong coping mechanisms due to the fact that they had no rights whatsoever and were treated the same as livestock. Families lost members through sales, husbands and wives were forever separated, children were sold out from under their mothers.
In spite of these severances, the African slaves maintained their ancestor's strength of community and bonds of family. Plantation slaves, isolated, formed strong bonds (and rivalries) and supported each other.
Imagine being a woman once settled and happy in your African community. You have a husband and family; you have some rank in your village. You are considered with respect. Each day is like the one before it, and you speak with others of your tribe with the flow of a language that has been spoken for perhaps thousands of years.
Now you are in a strange place, you have been kidnapped, your husband killed, your family gone. They put up a good fight but they were no match for the weapons of the invaders. You are repeatedly raped and beaten. Thrown onto a heaving and stinking ship, you are dumped into a cargo hold with several hundred other tribe members, but none of them your family. For a week you are on this ship, given stale bread and a little water if you are lucky. White men approach you for "favors" and if you refuse they have no problem hurting you and taking what they want. You cannot protest, no one can help you.
After going ashore you are hauled into the bright sun and stripped naked in front of throngs of white people jabbering a language you can't understand. You have been stripped of everything: your family, your home, your language and your identity. You are now an item for sale. Rough hands move to inspect you without any regard to your own comfort. Dirty hands pry your mouth open to inspect your teeth. You are touched in ways that make you feel filthy inside and out. Your tears, even though they may be silent, are gone unnoticed as bidding begins and you are crushed by the pressure of the stinking bodies that press around you. You are beyond afraid. There is no word for what you feel.
You are then roughly cleaned up and sent to your new home. Thus begins your new life in the United States of America.
While the previous page is simply a collection of fragments of information put together and spun into a tale by my own mind, it is only a mild story. Many more stories were told that were documented and narrated by the people who lived them or saw them; many of them were worse.
In spite of the barriers that faced African slaves and their descendents during the antebellum period, the slaves managed to form a system of community that retained the core values from their own land. These values and ethos were passed down through generations and reflect the strong spirit of a people who were denied their humanity.
One example of slave culture is the very gathering into a community within a plantation. A PBS production called "Africans In America: The Terrible Transformation" tells of slave activities the evenings; they would gather in their quarters to sing, tell stories and bring news. 1 During this time, parents would teach their children the skills necessary to cope with life as
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