Culture can be described as the knowledge and characteristics of a specific group of people, incorporating their language, social habits, clothing, literature, arts, and music. One of the culturally rich heritage cultures in the United States today is African American, also known as black culture. The distinctive identity of the African American culture is deeply rooted in the historical familiarity of the black people, comprising the middle passage. Many scholars strive to understand this culture as some quote, “There appear to be historical ramifications and etiological determinants that explicate the challenges that confront African American communities,” (Davis 128). Ostensibly, most of their practices are connected to their culture.
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African Americans historically have expressed themselves through art, shaping the American cultural landscape. Black artists over the years have contributed to the Harlem renaissance as well as the theories of philosopher Alian Locke. Furthermore, Barbara Jones Hogu’s work during the civil rights period is unmatchable. There are ranges of art pieces the African American people have used to express their cultures such as basket weaving, plastic art forms, quilting, pottery, painting, and woodcarving usually categorized as “folk art” or “handicrafts.”
The power of African American music artists is massive in the American musical landscape. The original music had African influences that the black people used to express themselves, and it is full of diversity. After the slaves had crossed the Atlantic, they did not leave behind their music and culture. Moreover, even after having been forced to abandon their spirituality and embrace Christianity, they blended Christian music lyrics with African traditional folk songs. For black people, music is not just for entertainment and luxury, but a necessity for physical and spiritual survival. Music has been used in African American culture to denounce oppression witnessed for many years.
The body of literature produced by African American writers is engaged in creativity and serves as a way of expressing atrocities committed to their ancestors. The output of literature is empowering as it is filled with social insight as well as expressive subtlety providing an illuminating evaluation of African American identities in history. One of the greatest writers of black culture history is the late Toni Morrison who received both criticism and acclamation for her work. Clayton claims that “social movements both have evolved out of the need to continue the Black liberation struggle for freedom,” (130).
With the ongoing trends of diversity and recognition in fashion and retail, there are some defining styles influenced by black culture. Over the years, the African American culture has entrenched fashion and clothing as a way of expressing needed equality and solidarity. The rebirth of black cultural arts through the Harlem Renaissance has enabled the black community to express their culture using fashion. As a substantial black population migrated north, seeking better opportunities, they also adopted the need of voicing themselves in fashion and artistically. They created Zoot Suits, such as the ones worn by jazz artist Cab Calloway. Womenswear is a sensational articulation, as flapper dresses popularized during the early days, continue to be witnessed today in the fashion world.
African Americans have a unique culture of using slang language that currently has a great influence on the mainstream American culture and language. Among the earliest works of black slang is Dan Burley’s original handbook Harlem Jive. The language has been in use in several African American life practices such as entertainment, work, street life, child games, sex, and play. The usage of slang by artists and celebrities is seen as a modern way of communication.
Clayton, Dewey M. “Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement: A Comparative Analysis of Two Social Movements in the United States”. Journal of Black Studies, vol 49, no. 5, 2018, pp. 448-480. SAGE Publications.
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Davis, Patrick Edward. “Painful Legacy of Historical African American Culture”. Journal of Black Studies, vol 51, no. 2, 2020, pp. 128-146. SAGE Publications.