Free Lawrence Levine’s Black Culture And Black Consciousness Essay Example
The Blacks or the African Americans comprise a significant, even a huge percentage of the United States’ total population. In fact, it can be said that they are one of the largest, if not the largest in the United States. It is important to note that the black culture in the west, particularly in the United States is largely based on the different experiences, majority of which are negative, of the first generations of African Americans who were transported to the west via a regional phenomenon called the Atlantic Slave Trade. In the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, people from Africa, especially West African peninsula were transported to the New World and sold as slaves to the Western European and then later on, American slave traders.
One particular observation that historians and sociologists obtained was that the number of Africans who were transported to the west was so great that African Americans got tagged as the most numerous immigrants from the old-world into both North and South America by the 18th century, roughly two centuries after the first large series of slave trades commenced. The objective of this paper is to discuss why it is important for African Americans to develop and retain their own distinctive folk culture focusing on the social and psychological aspects from the days of slavery (i.e. the Transatlantic Slave Trade), to the post-emancipation era.
One important thing to remember is the fact that the African American culture is largely based on and has been largely developed from the different things they experienced during the era of the slave trade. One notable author who published numerous works on this topic was Lawrence Levine, a popular historian. Some of the ideas he was able to popularize in relation to the current topic was multiculturalism and its effects on the perspectives of ordinary people, or in this case, the Black American people, in studying history.
He wrote the book Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom in an attempt to reveal the different angles surrounding the Afro-American culture during the antebellum and post-bellum periods. Some of the aspects of culture he focused on in that work were folk traditions such as aphorisms, jokes, folktales, songs, proverbs, verbal games, music, and song development. His main thesis (in that work) suggests that one of the most important drivers in the development and even the current existence of the Black American culture especially in the United States is the functionality of culture including its different aspects and elements .
According to Levine, one evident thing that can be easily observed among African Americans from the antebellum to the post-bellum period (i.e. the emancipation period) was the persistence of the Black American culture. This can be perceived as a rather surprising phenomenon mainly because of what logic would dictate about the type of relationship that would most likely exist between a superior and an inferior culture. In this case, the superior culture is the whites and the inferior culture is the blacks. Normally, one would observe how given the fact there is a superior culture (i.e. the White American culture) and an inferior one (i.e. the Black American culture), the latter would most likely be compelled to adjust to the norms being established by the members of the former.
Along the process, the inferior culture would be negatively affected. In most cases, the different aspects of the inferior culture would fade as it gets replaced or topped off by the aspects of the dominant culture. In the case of the Black American culture, for example, suppose that they have their own songs. Now, because of the much more rapid popularization of White American songs, it would only be logical to presume that if that trend of imbalance in the rate of popularization continues, sooner rather than later, the Black American culture’s songs would be upstaged by the White American songs. Should this trend persist and not an effective form of counteraction gets initiated, the Black Americans would find themselves patronizing songs popularized by the superior culture and not by their own culture. This is, in fact, the concept that Levine was trying to introduce in his work, although in an indirect manner.
Another example from the book would be how Levine described Black Culture’s dependence on an oral tradition and its underlying adaptability. One of the most pertinent finding that supports this notion of Levine is the fact that until the 19th century, majority of the blacks were illiterate and so the only form of communication they could rely on was oral communication. This, according to Levine, is one of the major reasons why blacks were able to focus their cultural development on jokes, trickster tales, call and response songs, and other distinct parts of their culture.
What is surprising about the Black American culture, however, is that despite the fact that they are the inferior culture; they still managed to retain the different aspects of their culture, something which can be very hard to do especially for slaves who are oftentimes forced to assimilate a certain culture—depending on the inherent culture of their masters. Evidently, as what one can observe in media trends, this has not been the case for the Black American culture. Instead of being dominated by the White American culture, they continued to propagate and retain their distinctive folk culture.
Some sources would suggest that the secret behind the successful preservation of the Black culture is the continuous development and retention efforts of the Blacks to do so. For a cultural group to be able to do so while being bound by slavery, they must have met numerous challenges. Most blacks still practiced their culture whenever they were together with other Blacks. When it was already time to serve and deal with their masters, they try to show that they have successfully adapted to the White culture because there was surely no way the Whites would adapt even just minute aspects of the Black culture (i.e. the inferior culture). This theory basically suggests that continuous practice of the black culture (by the Blacks of course) was the key behind the successful development and preservation of the black culture.
It is also important to note that there is not a single uniform social or psychological role or aspect that led to the successful development and preservation of the Black culture because it was really the efforts of the members of that culture that did all the heavy work from the days of slavery to post-emancipation. These efforts are what shaped the African American consciousness that people experience today.
In summary, based on the concepts of Black Culture and Black Consciousness (e.g. the Black Culture is one that is largely based on the Blacks’ experiences during the era of the slave trade to the post-emancipation era), it would only be safe to say that the answer to the question why it was important for the African Americans to develop and retain their distinctive folk culture is the fact that if not for those cultural development and preservation efforts, the Black American culture would have been completely downsized, if not eradicated, as a result of the domination of the White and other prominent cultures from the slave trade era to the post-emancipation era. Instead of fully adapting to the dominant culture, the Blacks continued to practice their own folk and distinctive culture and as a result, they managed to preserve their culture. Today, with the bondage of slavery and racism almost gone (if not completely gone), the Black Culture continues to thrive not only in the U.S. but around the planet.
Levine, L. "Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom." (1977).