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One of the most compelling aspects of slave history in the United States is how they were able to develop and maintain a distinct, beautiful culture as African-Americans, under the very worst of conditions. Their adherence to New Testament Christianity, their strong family bonds as well as a dialect of the English language all developed under the lash of slavery, the laws which declared them less than human or inequal at best, and within a society that largely disregarded them. This, is an of itself, is a momentous achievement of human spirit.
Much like all cultures who came from other countries to America, they continued to dance in traditional ways, prepare food in traditional ways, create tall-tales such as those told in Uncle Remus, and create a mini-society of elders and leaders.
In many ways, the Negroe spiritual likened the plight of the slaves to that of the Israelites in bondage in Egypt. Thus, many passages from the Old testament became metaphors for the enslaved blacks. Negroe spirituals such as "Ain't No Ways Tired" and others that encouraged the slaves to endure did much to help them in their subsistence.
One aspect that needs to be focused on is the way in which slaves built themselves a solid identity and created traditions or used religious traditions to help them do this. It is interesting that slaves forged for themselves what was essentially a new identity in which certain Bible passages, for example, and music became incredibly important.
If I understand your question accurately you are looking for activities or ways that slaves managed to survive life while in captivity or void of liberty? In response this inquiry slaves in the united states had various forms of interaction and/or past time activities. Perhaps the common known was music. Many enslaved individuals were involved in creating music which later gave rise to many of the modern day rhythms such as the blues. There is of course the entire train of thought surrounding paternalism. It is highly believed that many slaves adapted to life on plantations by acting in the role of a child to simply appease those in power. In reality most historians considered at slaves in their down time had an intricate caste system among themselves. Slaves many times had their own market system, their own personalized gardens, chickens, etc. There did exist a total and complete lifestyle separate from the cotton/tobacco field or great house. I highly recommend looking into K. M. Stampp's book Peculiar Institution as a reference for this topic.
Modern historians emphasize the following things about how the slaves built lives that would help them endure.
- They built as much of a community as possible. They married and had children (even if those marriages were not official). They adopted practices like "fictive kinship." This is the practice of calling people things like "brother" or "aunt" even if they are not related to you. This sort of practice is said to have allowed the slaves to feel more like they were connected to one another.
- They used religion. The slaves built religions of their own that were different from the brand of Christianity that slave owners wanted them to practice.
- They resisted in any way they could. Historians talk about how slaves worked as slowly as possible or pretended to be sick whenever possible. This allowed them to feel that they were not simply giving in to the demands of the masters.
In such ways, slaves tried to build lives that would allow them to survive the ordeal of slavery.
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