What are "Saltwater Africans" in African American history?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The term “saltwater Africans” is one that is sometimes used to refer to African slaves who were actually taken from Africa and brought to the Americas across the “Middle Passage.”  They are distinguished from slaves who were born in the Americas and had never had firsthand contact with Africa.

The saltwater Africans are significant for two main reasons.  First, they had not been born and raised as slaves and were generally seen as more rebellious.  They had not been raised in a slave system so as to be more accustomed to it.  Whites who worked with slaves tended to claim that the saltwater Africans were harder to deal with than the “native” slaves.  Second, saltwater Africans were an important source of African ways.   As time went by and more slaves were African Americans (rather than Africans brought to America), an African American culture developed.  Saltwater Africans were important in that they kept on infusing an African influence into this hybridized culture.

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