What does "saltwater African" represent in African American history?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Saltwater African represents the indigenous individual who was taken from Africa.  They were slaves who came to the Americas with nothing but African ancestry within them.  In African- American history, the Saltwater African can represent the link with the past that is an essential part of the narrative.  The Saltwater Africans were the first slaves to be forced to reside in the new world under the shackles of slavery. Their African ancestry made them different from the subsequent generations of slaves who were born in the new world, and born into the darkness of slavery.

In many ways, the Saltwater African can embody how there was an identity for those who were to become slaves prior to slavery.  The Saltwater African was able to recall a time where they lived indigenously, apart from the condition of slavery.  Since the Saltwater African, African- Americans had been indelibly linked to the stain of slavery.  The Saltwater African represents a condition of being where slavery did not exist and one in which indigenous life defined the individual.  It is in this notion where the Saltwater African occupies an important role in African- American history.