Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-century New England

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1988 - History - 237 pages
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This book examines the development of an Afro-American subculture in eighteenth-century New England. Piersen concerns himself not with the machinery of slave control or the political and social disabilities of bondage, but with the processes of cultural change and creation from the black bondsman's point of view. What was it like to be an African immigrant in colonial New England? What attitudes and assumptions underlay the Afro-American response to Yankee culture? What does the development within the confines of a predominantly white and ethnocentric New England of an Afro-American folk culture in religion, public rituals, folk arts and crafts, social mores, and daily behavior say about the creation of American culture?

On the face of it, the master class called the tunes and slaves danced the beat. Blacks who were taken into New England's bondage were clearly engulfed in a pervasive, narrow-minded Euro-American society that had no interest in fostering Afro-American autonomy. The New England experience was often cruel, and the numbers alone suggest it was among the most unequal of black/white cultural contacts in the New World. Nonetheless, despite the strictures of bondage, the black Yankees of eighteenth-century New England created a sustaining folk culture of their own.


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Black Yankees: the development of an Afro-American subculture in eighteenth-century New England

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Mining rich but rarely touched material, Piersen unearths a sustaining folk culture created from African values. Focusing on Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, where black clusters formed ... Read full review

Selected pages


New Slaves in a New World
A Clustered Minority
The Forces of Enculturation
Family Slavery
The Training of Servants
A Christianity for Slaves
The Blending of Traditions
The Great Awakening What Might Have Been
Aspects of Black Folklife
In Celebration of AfroAmerican Culture
Black Kings and Governors
The Functions and Character of Black Government
On Resistance A Summary Conclusion
A Resistant Accommodation

An AfroAmerican Folk Religion
To Build a Family

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Page 10 - Arts of Reading and Writing, giving the Blacks, the first Election, who chose Gold, and left the Knowledge of Letters to the White. God granted their Request, but being incensed at their Avarice, resolved that the Whites should for ever be their Masters, and they obliged to wait on them as their Slaves.
Page 10 - God left the blacks in the bush, but conducted the whites to the waterside, (for this happened in Africa) communicated with them every night, and taught them to build a small ship, which carried them to another country, whence they returned after a long period, with various merchandise to barter with the blacks, who might have been the superior people.
Page 12 - I no longer looked upon them as spirits, but as men superior to us; and therefore I had the stronger desire to resemble them; to imbibe their spirit, and imitate their manners...
Page 9 - In a little time after, amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation, which in a small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done with us? They gave me to understand, we were to be carried to these white people's country to work for them. I then was a little revived, and thought, if it were no worse than working, my situation was not so desperate...

References to this book

W. Jeffrey Bolster
Limited preview - 1998
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About the author (1988)

William D. Piersen is professor of history at Fisk University. His Black Legacy: America's Hidden Heritage, also published by the University of Massachusetts Press, was a Choice Outstanding Academic Book.

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