How did slaves create their own identity and culture in the Cotton Kingdom during early 1800s?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Slaves created their own identity and culture in many ways during the time of the Cotton Kingdom.  In doing this, they were resisting the dehumanizing effects of slavery.  Some of the most important things that the slaves did included:

  • Music.  Slave music kept alive African influences.  It also gave slaves a secret language (as in some “Negro spirituals”) that could be used to convey messages without the whites understanding.  It also gave slaves a way to relax, socialize, and try to forget the hardships forced on them by slavery.
  • Family.  Even though slave families were not honored by law or in practice, slaves continued to form families.  They wanted to create their own communities in which they could live as much like free people was possible.
  • Fictive kinship.  This is the practice of using terms of kinship (like “brother” or “sister”) when addressing people who are not related to you by blood.  When slaves addressed one another in these ways, they were emphasizing their common bond and creating a community and identity for themselves.
  • Religion.  Slaves created their own version of Christianity in the face of white attempts to control their religion.  They emphasized, for instance, Moses more than Jesus since Moses was a major figure identified with freedom from slavery.  They played down the aspects of Christianity that demanded obedience from subordinates to superiors. 

By doing things like these, the slaves created their own communities and identities as one way to resist what slavery and slaveowners did to them.