A Vigorous Affirmation of Life: Slaves in the Face of Dehumanization
Keywords: slavery, African-American, humanities, Spring 2015, history
AbstractFor a slave living under the system of chattel slavery in the American South during the nineteenth century, avenues of self-expression were extremely limited. One of the few ways slaves could exert control over their own lives was through singing and dancing. These arts gave slaves a chance to relieve stress and establish a culture through the creation of musical instruments, songs, and dances. All of these contained hints at the true nature of slaves’ feelings towards the system that oppressed them, feelings that they had to frequently repress. However, despite slaves’ efforts to make this culture entirely their own, masters tried to find ways to use it to their advantage instead of to the slaves’ benefit. The resulting covert power struggle sometimes ended in favor of the masters, taking the form of regulations on slaves’ dances, requirement of the performance of songs and dances for the masters’ entertainment, and even abuse of slaves by using their own arts. Ultimately, however, slaves emerged victorious because of the hidden messages in their songs and dances. Though this method of coping could not erase all the masters did, it was at least one glimmer of hope.
How to Cite
Nista, D. (2015). A Vigorous Affirmation of Life: Slaves in the Face of Dehumanization. Elements, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.6017/eurj.v11i1.8814
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