One of Harriet Tubman’s favorite songs was Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. This classic hymnal was not only a reverence of the slave’s God, but was also a way of secret communication. American slaves would sing across the plantations that the “sweet chariot” (The Underground Railroad) was coming to “swing low” (come to the south) to carry them “home” (to the north to freedom). This type of communication would go undetected by slave masters who attempted to control every aspect of their slave’s life. These “negro spirituals” was just one aspect of American plantation slave culture. The culture that they created allowed slaves to have an identity of their own and was their defiance against subjugation.
The idea of American slavery is still viewed as African slaves being forced to carry out grueling tasks by their white masters and seldom defying their oppression. However, plantation slaves found ways to defy their oppression through not only music but also religion, food, and strong personal bonds. These forms of defiance created a culture within the slave community and allowed them to have pride in something they created in spite of their circumstances.
This paper examines the impact eighteenth century American plantations had in creating a unique slave culture. By examining the plantation lifestyle, I illuminate how the culture came to be through the mixing of African and European lifestyles and how slaves were able to keep their self-identity while being oppressed. The self-identity and culture studied in this paper is demonstrated through slave religion, hymns, family bonds and liberties taken with growing and creating new foods.
History, Anthropology, & Philosophy
- Event location
- Event date
25 March 2016
- Date submitted
18 July 2022
- Additional information
Dr. George Justice