- How did African American slaves in the British colonies preserve their cultural identities? What reasons might they have resisted becoming “English”?
African American slaves tried to maintain some elements of their culture despite the problems they faced. Family was an integral part of their culture. The extended family members were close, and the slaves tried to maintain this even though separation occurred as some of them were sold off and others escaped. The slaves who ran away from their masters or those who became free for different reasons tried to locate their families. They maintained their music and dance traditions. These influential cultural elements formed part of the daily life of the African slaves. They sang when working, after work, and in any ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals. They used different instruments, which included handclapping.
The slaves maintained their beliefs and customs such as those relating to funerals and marriage. The people buried the dead with their belongings or foods and drinks. They believed that those who passed on would need the items in their next life. Religion was an important part of the slaves’ culture. It was different from the new religion of Christian faith, which they learnt from their owners. Even those who converted to Christianity tried to merge it with their traditional religious beliefs. The slaves had different reasons for not wanting to become English. Many slaves had suffered under the slave owners, who forced them to work hard for meager benefits. Some of the slaveholders separated families from each other as they sold off different family members to other owners.
- What difficulties did Native Americans face preserving their cultural identities? Was the only pressure to change from the Europeans or did it come from within the Indian nations themselves?
Native Americans endured many difficulties, which included war and disease. They suffered under the hands of the white settlers who wanted their land, produce and for them to work without pay. It became hard for them to maintain their culture, as they had to deal with the emerging changes. The settlers introduced new religion and education, which forced people to change their ways. Some cultural traditions of the Native Americans were contrary to the Christian teachings. Those who chose to convert to Christianity and get the white man’s education abandoned some of their customs and beliefs. Through the school system, they learnt that some of their cultural beliefs were not necessary. Therefore, the pressure that the Native Americans faced while trying to maintain their culture was also internal.
They constantly went to war with the settlers, and often had to move from their settlements to other regions. Some of them were captured by the settlers while others were killed. In addition, many of them were susceptible to European diseases and ailments. They had a low immunity, and died when they became sick. Deaths due to these and other causes contributed to the dwindling population. The number of Native Americans decreased, and some of those who were left assimilated other cultures. These factors limited people’s abilities to preserve their cultures. Native Americans used to preserve their culture through oral communication such as storytelling. However, the introduction of education changed this, and there were fewer people left to pass on the cultural heritage to other generations.
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