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Edmond Davis

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Afributions: Contributions of African-Americans to American culture
by Edmond Davis   

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Category: 

History

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16

Copyright:  January 31, 2007
Non-Fiction

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Edmond Davis give us a small taste of the various contributions of early Africans and their descendants. Davis also multiculturally identifies our Melting Pot DNA.

Afributions:

 An article on the various contributions of people of African descent in the United States that have directly affected the American culture.

 

 

By

 

Edmond Davis

Historian

 Pulaski Technical College

 

 

Submitted verbally a feedback discussion during Black History month.

 

 

 

 

February 2007

 

The meaning of this essay is to relate, share, and discuss quality information that is based on the makings of our past early American culture.   We will try to connect the arrival of Africans and link them with our present.   Some of this information you are about to hear regarding certain man-made advancements are still having a profound effect on our lives today and this is an attempt to explained it in “Afributions”.   This document will attempt to expose, educate and uncover the significant ideas and innovations of people of African descent.  It will also prove that mass movements of monoculturalistic ideologies caused friction in most areas of society in colonial America.    Africans and non-whites were often mistreated as a result of these ideologies.  Afributions will also make mention to the culture-mixing and cross-genealogical offspring /unions between Blacks, whites, and other ethnic groups.  This essay is designed to outline simple, but extraordinary accomplishments that are used in our culture on a daily basis.  And to describe the melting pot that eventually created them and the American Culture.    

Introduction

 To the readers or listeners the Valuable contributions were set in motion by the same people primarily of West African descent now living in these United States of America.   These people are the very same people whom were also set in sail against their will, by ways of the tyrannical beast that is the Transatlantic Slave trade.   Currently these people, my people are mainly identified by political correctness (PC) and American pop culture as African-Americans.   Like many things this term was accepted and has become a benchmark in identifying an entire ethnic background.  We will re-discover how these people helped to establish the global phenomenon that is sweeping across our planet from Tokyo to Turkey the American culture.   The innovations, ideas, inventions, and machines all mentioned in this article will help give birth to the rise of a people and the identity of a country.  When people in the media circuits and in the public speak of contributions to America especially in a post 9/11 world, they speak of individuals paying the ultimate price that one pays and most of the time it is in battles or wars from rights and freedoms!  People of African descent have contributed to this ultimate symbol of patriotism long before they were called Americans.  These would be Americans of darker skinned nature would play a valuable role in all of this countries conflicts.  Examples of these heroes are evident all around us examples such as the black confederates to the Tuskegee Airmen.   And long before that elite group of pioneers there was arguably the first person to die in the Revolutionary War and his name was Crispus Attucks a sailor in the Boston harbor area.  From Colin Powell to Benjamin O. Davis Sr. there are countless men of color to represent the red, white and blue.  We must all look back into our past and see these events and learn from them.

Melting Pot Society

In order to discover your heritage you must first examine and accept your past, regardless of it highs, lows, triumphs or defeats, learn from the dynamics of it and move on.   In the process you must never forget what has happened in the past, but you must always be forgiving to situations from the past.  Secondly, it is noteworthy to say that there were symbiotic relationships in the early colonial periods before American became the United States and we must learn from these relationships.  The outcome of multicultural interactions between these past relationships can be viewed as a melting pot.   Sometimes melting pots are blamed for lost national identity, customs, religion, and in some cases {cultural amnesia}.  Many new subcultures were wedged as a result of the melting pot society in colonial times.  Now our hybrid American culture spurred by this new melting pot environment must exist and the existence of our colonies solely depends on our ways to adapt and get along in a culturally diverse atmosphere.  History reflex an uphill battle in that regard, and it is in some degrees still being climbed.   Melting pots can be view as soups of cultural batter.  Every soup needs major and minor ingredients.  The major melting pot soup ingredients are the British, Native, Asian, Immigrant, and African stock.   

The final ingredients in a melting pot soup are the clothing, foods, religion, cultures of these ethnic groups.  How they existed simultaneously is the foundation of American culture & it will soon venerate for generations and become marketable and ultimately sold or assimilated by other peoples (non-Americans) around the world.  How does one make life better or easier?   The answer is with great contributions there are great minds to think them up.   Now having conjured up these great things, things that will perhaps have a lasting impression on the historical signifigance of this land and may even change the world.

My father’s Influence

My father always instilled in me the history of great contributions in American society.  He explained it to me from an ethnocentric perspective.  Mainly focusing in on the iconic black figures from the past.  Now fast-forward twenty years later, and now as a historian, it is my profession duty to do what my father did for me, but from a multiculturalist’s perspective.   Now when I use the term “American History”  I use it because American history is Irish-American History, it is Polish-American History, It is Chinese-American History, it is Italian-American History, it is English-American history, it is Japanese-American history, it is Mexican American History, it is German-American history it is Native-American history and it is African-American history.   True American culture is simply a comprised combination of contributions of the multiethnic diversities in our country and the generation alterations that were made afterwards.  My father made sure that I was heavily endowed with history, but mainly contributions of blacks in American past and present.   Most of all of the nationalities, ethnic groups & cultures mentioned above have a home country somewhere else to claim & usually that place is outside of our national borders. 

Often disheartening to say, but true that the majority of black Americans or African Americans do not boast this claim of absolutely knowing what country of origin you came from.  It is because they simply do not know.  Most of our ancestors were victims of the transatlantic slave trade by way of West Africa, the Caribbean or Brazil.   Today with the advent of technological advances, genealogy experts, patience, and some money African Americans can find and trace there past family lineage and cultural heritage back to exclusive communities in West Africa, the Caribbean, and around the globe if they are interested.

“African-American”

As the term describes itself ‘African-American’, is only one generation removed from being a word that was never really used in American popular culture or even in the political arena prior to 1984.  It is a rather recent term that was first officially and politically linked to a Speech delivered by the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. in the early 1980s on his first historic presidential run.  I guess Mr. Jackson felt that people of color in this country namely the ones of immediate African descent were tired of Afro-American, Negro, Colored, or even Black.  One can still say, well hit is very hard to identify with one country.  This can be explained due to the fact that Africa is continent with more that fifty nations and geography hold this to be true.  So for one to call him/herself African-American, that is basically saying you belong to one of the black ethnic groups of Africa primarily southwest of the Sahara dessert, or north of Southern Africa, but you are not sure of which one country.   

This void can be directly related to the Middle passage experience regarding the breaking up of families, tribes, death, and the mixing of different African peoples on the western front (the first passage).  One can also argue that this can have a prolonged effect on the psychosis of some African-Americans and may result in {cultural amnesia} and more importantly perhaps the cause of that sickness being and that is “ignorance”.                                                  Many lasting consequences are still felt today from the events relating to the Atlantic slave trade, an experience that was also known as the African Holocaust.  No one can really estimate the approximate number of deaths during this transatlantic voyage, but scholars calculate the number to be in the tens of millions.

West Africa Roots

It is my distinct honor, job and duty to help guide you to learning and the understanding of some of the remarkable things that Africans are responsible for especially since their displacement in the western hemisphere.  And what makes what I am saying even more astonishing is the fact that most of the innovations and breakthroughs were done at a time in American history when some of the choice terms of social recognition and class identification were, N-word(Nigger), Negro, Black, Savage, Heathen, Alien ,Mulatto, or other ethnically inferior or undesirable terms.  Most of our ancestors were victims of the transatlantic slave trade by way of West Africa, and transported to the North America, the Caribbean or Brazil.   Today with the advent of technological advances, genealogy expertise, patience, education, and money some African-Americans can find and trace their past family lineage and cultural heritage perhaps back to exclusive tribal communities in West Africa, the Caribbean, and even around the globe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The West African nations of Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Gabon, Cameroon and Ghana were all grounds for early European slave pirates, African privateers and ignorant opportunists alike.   These events that had taken place on both sides of the Atlantic were early examples of culture clashing were evident.  Many native, European and African died due to illness and chaos.  Even in chaos the culture was profiteering and the liveihood was to make money and trade goods.   Little did those men know that many years later the descendants of their human cargo would eventually help pave the way for an easier life in a totally freed land for their future families and help create our American Culture.  

Food, crops and cultivation travels abroad

You don’t have to be a geoagriculturalist to find out what food sources were introduced into the Colonial and pre-colonial landscape that came from Africa.  With the help of written records, ship logs, cookbooks, dairies, and agri-education we can figure out the crops trade and indigenous food sources from Africa.  Some of the most recognizable crops in our country were taken from the shores, villages, and farms from Africa and brought to the new world.  These crops where developed by the ingenuity of slave, slave cooks, and skilled farmers.   Also coming along for the ride was Coffee via the Ethiopian highlands,  Black-eyed peas, Watermelons, stews, Palm Oil, African Rice, Cassava (Tapioca), Teff,  Wild grains, Sorghum, Barley (malt/beer), Okra (a Southern U.S. phenomena), Yams, Sweet potatoes (pies) and hundreds of other “lost” and eatable crops now extinct due to rediscovery, exploitation or exploration.   The modern culinary term of “Gumbo” has its origins in the roots of Nigeria and Ghanaian culture.  Now gumbo is synonymous with the south and particularly the south Louisiana Cajun/Creole efforts almost exclusively and why?  Which lead me to my next point?  The Great New Orleans is just as the current mayor Ray Nagin says is a “Chocolate City”.  He was not lying the majority of its residents are people of color (have you seen the Katrina footage?).  When we think of New Orleans Culture, our society quickly identifies with the European consortium (Fr. Sp), but just as influential we must add into the same sentence the African flavor as well.  We cannot neglect our cultural DNA.

First Africans    

 This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the English Jamestown settlement in Virginia (1607).  12 years later history records the arrival of Africans in this Jamestown colony (1619), and a year after that, history records the coming of the Mayflower (1620).   40 years prior to the first English town there was the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine, Florida (1565).  This is by far is considered the first permanent euro-dominated town in the- would be U.S. mainland (America).   Africans lived in this Spanish community both as slave and freed men in essence making St. Augustine a multiracial society before Jamestown.   Even before the days of the St. Augustine settlement there is evidence of Europeans and practice of Africanized Slave labor. 

In 1526, Lucas Vazquez de ayllon, a Spanish explorer fully loaded with 500 colonists came to settled near the Chesapeake Bay region.  This earliest unsuccessful attempt at a permanent residency traveled all the way from the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti).  It frightens me to know that this is not being taught in our schools; however it also exhilarates me because I get the opportunity to challenge people to research it and learn it for themselves.   This is more that lively the results of the massive campaigns of ignorance (voluntarily or involuntarily) is the fact that many people don’t know much regarding this time in early history that helped shape our American melting pot culture.  Ignorant attitudes are currently festering and make up part of our American culture today.  This ignorance can be linked to a lack of exposure, whether this lack comes from our social, parental, educational, or overall systems.  Nonetheless, it is the culmination of social ills in our society that often go under the radar.  And it is up to us to educate ourselves and the next generation of youth.

If you ask the average high school student about the history of blacks and whites in early colonial America a common reply would probably be ‘well it starts with slavery for blacks in America and the freedom of tyranny and religious persecution in America for whites’.  However familiar or typical the previous answer may be, it is most certainly historically inaccurate.  In fact, the first blacks to arrive to Jamestown were called “odd Negroes”, some were free, and mostly had the status of being ‘indentured’ persons or servants.  On the other hand, lower classes of whites (English & non-English migrants) were just as venerable to the system of indentured servitude as the Negroes.   There were often more Europeans caught up in this system and one could argue demographically it was better for the colony to have more whites because they had to work off there indebtedness for a number of years before becoming totally free and they far outnumber their darker skinned brethren.  White slavery was short lived, but not uncommon in early American culture.  Most white slaves were crooks, thieves, and hoodlums.  Instead of punishing them by hanging under the crown in Europe, these menaces to society would prove to be useful hands of labor in the new world colonies.  Others such as the indentured servants had to work to pay off the businessmen whom put up the means for them and their families to travel to the new world.

The previously mentioned was a more realistic depiction of early colonial society in America.   However racial divides would soon take precedent setting up a refueling chattel-styled institution that most people are familiar with today in the English colonies (hereditary Slavery).  This would be a permanent system were the adherents are placed or born into and all the functions are based on skin color or ancestry.  Our earliest English society experienced certain degrees of freedom before maturation process of the racially motivated types of slavery, and it is this institution that helps shape our early American culture.    

Illegal don’t make it wrong

In 2007, we also recognize the 200th anniversary of the end of the Slave trade in England and the United States making it illegal.   This new policy eventually spelled the doom for the slave trade, but did the slavery trade really end in 1807?  On paper legally it was in effect immediately, but  Slave tycoons, Slave ships & freedom-robbers were spotted, slaves were still illegally sold and slavery was still a lucrative business long after the law was past the outlawing the industry.   This forced the business to go underground.  One can argue that some of our coastlines at this particular time in history became breeding grounds for slave distribution (periphery zones included).  By today’s standards the illegal trading of anything much less human cargo is considered amongst other things immoral.  This frolicking can be considered ‘black-market’ activity.  Black-market items are always easing to get especially if there is a demand for them.  The majority of these things are unlawfully sold & distributed under the table with tax/tariff free implications.  This market of sort is alive and well today in our American subculture and can be partially considered the underbelly of early American domestic trade.  In the interest of fairness all persons involved in this were not rotten to the very core, but make no mistake about it some of the most undesirable people in Europe mainly convicts, pickpockets came to this land and didn’t think twice about changing their ways upon arrival.    

Names in our Culture

Names have become a fixation in our society today, some are thought provoking and well they just make you think.  Some choose the route to name there children after exotic cars (Mercedes, Lexus, and Galant) and others party beverages (Crystal, Alize, Monet,).  My Name is Edmond, and it is of British origin, but it’s also of French nobility.  It was my father’s middle name.   Some examples of female names of our American culture are Lakeesha, Keon, Rashida, Zina and Kiesha, by which are of African by origin, however white Americans have also adopted some of these names.   You also have black American girls whom carry remnants of European, English, or Russian native names of Tiffany, Brittany, Catherine, Natasha, Latasha or Tasha.  There are countless Africans or currently African American males with medieval, Anglo-or German European names all stemming from our melting examples.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was named after a German monk named Martin Luther whom by decree started the Protestant Reformation.  Dr. King also acquired non-violent methods from an Indian monk by the name of Mohandas Ghandi, a true example of melting pot euphoria. 

The Religion us impact of Africans in America

Religions like names have played a vital role in example.  The religious contributions of Africans range from Voodoo, Hoodoo, and the African Methodist Episcopal denomination to Black baptisms in the south, the alleged assimilation of white preachers mimicking their black counterparts.  It is worth mentioning that the descendants of slaves and freemen initially vocalized at a high tone at church services.  Black clergymen and their followers sang songs on a content high volume level.   There is plenty of evidence of unions between American Christian evangelicalism and the singing, rythnming and tradition of African religions.  

I would like to take this time to share with you some of the most simple, but innovative things to ever grace our culture and we have these people of color before and upon us to be grateful to.   These things are a direct example of what hard work, perseverance, dedication, and a will to be creative can do especially in a systematically oppressive society designed for the Africans living in America!   This may come to a shock to some, and a revelation to other, just let me say this.   Never take what most people say and let it be, always research it yourself and become a real myths slayers or truth seekers.  There are plenty of people waiting in line to shun, discredit and make a lie into the impeccable accomplishments of Africans in America, just surf the internet.  Always remember be proud of whom you see in the mirror, regardless of what ethnicity, gender or nationality because we all have given or have contributed in some way.   There are people today in our culturally diverse Americana who could still never accept or ever fathom the notional idea of unions or marriages between others considered to be of different race, ethnicity, culture, or otherwise.  Blacks and whites, and blacks and others such as (Asian, Europeans, Latinos, and Natives, Jewish) have produced some of the most diversely talented daughters and sons in the world.  In our American culture there are only a small number of people who can say that no one in their family lineage has ever had an extra-cultural experience.  I am an indirect example of an extra-cultural experience.  My Grand father’s father was a full-blood Native American (Nanticoke tribe of Delaware), and my Great-Great grand mother was Irish.  And that was just on my mother’s side.  My father’s forefathers are Carolinians and descendants of West African slaves …… Now let me give you another example of what we can produce in an ethnically & culturally diverse American society.  A society with Black culture.

 

(SEE EXAMPLES LIST)  Biracial, multiethnic, bicultural, mixed or dual ancestry Celebrities List

 

Some people on this may not be proud of or may even downplay the African side of their combined heritage.   Some may even neglect the European, Caucasian, Asian or native contingent in there heritage.  Whatever the case or blood percentages are you should not deny what you are.  I never denied that I was a person of mixed ancestry.  I just only recently found out as an adult.  I think it’s cool to be part Irish, Native-American & African-American.   I can talk I can talk about Corn, Cornbread & Potatoes in jokes and not get in trouble from my educated peers.  What I have always been called is the direct result of what people see & it is obvious to see what gene is dominated. 

 

AFRIBUTIONS LIST

---Audiences Participation is required everyone must close there eyes for this to work!

 

Now imagine getting out of bed to get your day started.  Imagine attempting to use the bathroom to realize the toilet doesn’t flush.  Imagine trying to eat a quick meal and realizing that there was no peanut butter just jelly for a jelly sandwich.  Now picture in your mind, putting on your shoes to leave out and get in your car, the only problem is that the shoe’s soles constantly and poorly constructed out of cheap hand make materials and you had to buy new shoes every week.  Imagine you are driving to your destination and there was no modern stop light as we know it.  Imagine crashing that car and walking away, making it to a local tea shop because coffee was first cultivated by the Ethiopians a long time ago and they are black as can be (no Starbucks).  Imagine watching T.V. coverage of the War in Iraq or Afghanistan in a semi lit room with no reliable light source (lightbuld carbon invented by Lewis Lattimer).  You look up to see news headlines reading the deaths of hundred of soldiers because they were exposed to a form of deadly gas, and why, because the gas mask was never invented.  And to make matters worse, more soldiers died of blood lost, because there are no blood banks or plasma available for our troops courtesy of Dr. Charles Drew.  Imagine a world without the paradigm of Soul food.   Imagine a world in America without the free labor of over 300 years, imagine a colorless society. 

Imagine a culture that has no contrast, no comparisons, no different flavor and no civil rights movement.  Now were would women of all colors/any color be without civil rights huh in America?  Definitely no Katie Courics or Martha Stewarts,  Nancy Pelosi’s, Ophra Winfreys’ Danica Patrick’s,  no equal pay, no CEO’s, no sports programs in High schools especially state funded programs etc.  And if you are overweight you could not find a job in the movie industry nor the airline industry.   No Jazz, Blues as we know it, and no Rap music, break dancing, pop locking, DJing, were would Kid rock, eminem, Beastie boys, Paul Wall, Vanilla Ice, and B-rad form Malibu’s Most wanted be?  Imagine watching sports on T.V. a colorless NBA, NFL, Track meets, Boxing matches, or Baseball games.   Imagine a Chicago bull’s arena in Chicago without the number 23 (Michael Jordan) retired jersey in the rafters or a bull game without the daunting fashion crazy of a Ben Wallace afro worn by scores of fans.  Imagine an American Culture with no Sweet Potato pie, super-soaker water gun, Chrysler 300 luxury Sedan or America’s Top Model.   Imagine a cultural of one color being and that was the ideal society were everybody looks alike, now ask yourself is that any fun or stimulating.  Imagine a domestic culture without the simple demin Blue Jeans, because it was noted that the fermentation process of the early U.S. jean industry involved the unhygienic use stale human urine mainly form the slaves (or cows) to bring out the indigo dye used to give the blue Jeans their “blue” color.  Now open your eyes and imagine my ancestor had never make it here to the U.S, imagine with you eyes open all of the things that they have influenced our culture, now subtract it from your existence.  Half of us would be walking home barefooted.  Now place those very same items you see on your Afributions list and place those things into the African system of existence.  Now think to yourself silently and say, “Would Africa be in its present continental situations if they (the sons and daughter of the slaves) with their great minds had never left”.

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

 

Lost Crops of Africa, Volume I. Grains, National Resources Council, 1996

Deagan, Kathleen and Darcie MacMahon. Colonial America’s Black Fortress of

Freedom.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995

The Tahititravelor.com/general/fruitsveg.asp

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp. The black Church in the Southern Black Community Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

1995.

Dr. Terry Matthews. The Religion of the Slaves.   Lecture 12.  Wake Forrest University. 

www.wfu.edu:/matthew1/perspectives/twelve.html

Carney offers historical taste of rice cultivation in America, the University

Record, January 28, 2002.  John Woodford.  Michigan Today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
  
Excerpt
By Edmond Davis, "This document will attempt to expose, educate, and uncover the significant ideas and innovations of people of African descent."


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