African American Characteristics Paper

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 21 December 2016

African American Characteristics Paper

African American culture in the United States refers to the cultural contributions of Americans of African descent to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from American culture. The distinct identity of African American culture is rooted in the historical experience of the African American people. The culture is both distinct and enormously influential to American culture as a whole. African-American culture is rooted in Africa. It is a blend of chiefly sub-Saharan African and Sahelean cultures.

Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of Americans of African descent to practice their cultural traditions, many practices, values, and beliefs survived and over time have modified or blended with European American culture. There are some facets of African American culture that were accentuated by the slavery period. The result is a unique and dynamic culture that has had and continues to have a profound impact on mainstream American culture, as well as the culture of the broader world” (Rydell, 2010).

Learning Team B has chosen African Americans as the culturally diverse group we will focus on. The subjects in this paper will be African American history, family characteristics, parenting practices, language, and religion. Also, the primary characteristics of African Americans and how those characteristics impact their experience as a subculture in American Society will be a topic. The last topic will be the implications of the characteristics for psychological theories and practices. History African Americans are the descendants of Africans brought to America during the slavery era.

Many were owned as property and forced to work as day laborers in the fields or as servants in their owner’s homes. Others were allowed to work off their debts by being bough and sold on “the block”. An article titled “The Slave Auction of 1859 gives a brief account of what it was to be sold on “the block”: “The buyers, who were present to the number of about two hundred, clustered around the platform; while the Negroes, who were not likely to be immediately wanted, gathered into sad groups in the background to watch the progress of the selling in which they were so sorrowfully interested.

The wind howled outside, and through the open side of the building the driving rain came pouring in; the bar down stairs ceased for a short time its brisk trade; the buyers lit fresh cigars, got ready their catalogues and pencils, and the first lot of human chattels are led upon the stand, not by a white man, but by a sleek mulatto, himself a slave, and who seems to regard the selling of his brethren, in which he so glibly assists, as a capital joke. It had been announced that the Negroes would be sold in “families,” that is to say; a man would not be parted from his wife, or a mother from a very young child.

There is perhaps as much policy as humanity in this arrangement, for thereby many aged and unserviceable people are disposed of, who otherwise would not find a ready sale… “(New York Daily Tribune, 1928). President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free. ” Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways.

It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory. History pages often claim President Lincoln as “The Great Emancipator” which most educated adults come to learn is an over exaggeration. The general consensus is that Lincoln never freed a single slave, and only used the proclamation as a means to get what he wanted from the states.

Once freed most African Americans still experienced racial violence and lived in fear for many years. In 1870 the fifteenth amendment was added to the constitution giving blacks the right to vote. Although blacks were free they were still segregated from the white people, made to go to different schools, stores, and even ride at the back of the bus. In 1954 the supreme courts declared segregation in school unconstitutional due to the Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. The civil right movement was at its peak during 1955-1965.

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race, after nearly a decade of nonviolent protests and marches, ranging from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycotts to the student-led sit-ins of the 1960s to the huge March on Washington in 1963. In 1968 President Johnson signed the Civil Right act prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. Some of the most famous leader of the civil right movement includes Martin Luther King Jr. , Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and many others.

Although civil rights were established many African American still struggled to be treated fairly in America. Affirmative Action was established in 1978 by a ruling of the Supreme Court to ensure that minorities are given an opportunity that they may have missed because of their race. In 2008 Barack Obama was the first African American to be nominated for a major party nominee for president. He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. Family and Parenting Characteristics As with most cultures, African Americans place a high value on their families.

In the United States African American family’s make-up 12. 9 percent of the population according to the 2003 US Census. The US census also shows that for African Americans over the age of 15 there are 34 percent married, five percent separated, eleven percent divorced, seven percent widowed, and 43 percent were never married. According to the First Things First website, “African Americans are the most un-partnered group in America” (Medium, 2011, para. 4). One major goal of African American families is communalism, which is very important for effective functioning (Hall, 2010).

Hall (2010) describes African American families as having three family types. The first type is the cohesive-authoritative that is explained to be a family with high cohesion along with being supportive, nurturing, and involved with their children (Hall, 2010). The second type of family is the conflictive-authoritarian that is defined as families with conflict and the parents are controlling, critical, and express unhappiness with children (Hall, 2010). The last type of family Hall (2010) explains is the defensive- neglectful, that did not like other racial groups and also did not teach their children to be proud of being an African American.

One significant trend that has been determined about the African American family structure is that the more interconnected the family is, the lower the rate of depression in African Americans (Hall, 2010). Based on these findings, a program called Strong African American Families has been created in order to strengthen the relationships between parents and children. According to Hall (2010), “The Strong African American Families program also has been found to reduce preadolescent risky sexual behaviors, preadolescent alcohol use, and parental depression among African American families” (p.95).

This kind of program has been very effective in keeping families cohesive and helping to improve the goal of communalism. Language “Generations of hardships imposed on the African American community created distinctive language patterns. Slave owners often intentionally mixed people who spoke different African languages to discourage communication in any language other than English. This, combined with prohibitions against education, led to the development of pidginsimplified mixtures of two or more languages that speakers of different languages can use to communicate.

Examples of pidgins that became fully developed languages include Creole, common to Louisiana, and Gullah, common to the Sea Islandsoff the coast of South Carolina and Georgia” (Rydell, 2010). It is sad to think that slave owners intentionally put Africans with people who did not speak their language to discourage communication, but is have been researched and proven to be true. Slavery is not the only element to African American culture, and it often seems that when discussing African American culture slavery is the main topic.

However, when discussing language the centuries of slavery that they endured have everything to do with the evolution of African-American language. Now that we have covered the origin of African American language we can discuss the American perspective of where modern day African American language stands, and how this effects the culture. “African American Vernacular English (AAVE)—also called African American English; less precisely Black English, Black Vernacular, Black English Vernacular (BEV), or Black Vernacular English (BVE)—is an African Americanvariety(dialect, ethnolect and sociolect) of American English.

Non-linguists sometimes call it Ebonics(a term that also has other meanings or strong connotations) or jive or jive-talk. Its pronunciation is, in some respects, common to Southern American English, which is spoken by many African Americans and many non-African Americans in the United States. There is little regional variation among speakers of AAVE. Several creolists, including William Stewart, John Dillard, and John Rickford, argue that AAVE shares so many characteristics with Creole dialects spoken by black people in much of the world that AAVE itself is a Creole dialect; while others maintain that there are no significant parallels.

As with all linguistic forms, its usage is influenced by age, status, topic and setting. There are many literary uses of this variety of English, particularly in African-American literature” (Rydell, 2010). Of course this information does not imply that all African Americans speak a version of AAVE, only that it is very common and prevalent throughout the modern day African American culture. Religion In the African American community religion plays an extremely significant role. “The story of African-American religion is a tale of variety and creative fusion.

Enslaved Africans transported to the New World beginning in the fifteenth century brought with them a wide range of local religious beliefs and practices. This diversity reflected the many cultures and linguistic groups from which they had come. The majority came from the West Coast of Africa, but even within this area religious traditions varied greatly. Islam had also exerted a powerful presence in Africa for several centuries before the start of the slave trade: an estimated twenty percent of enslaved people were practicing Muslims, and some retained elements of their practices and beliefs well into the nineteenth century.

Preserving African religions in North America proved to be very difficult. The harsh circumstances under which most slaves lived—high death rates, the separation of families and tribal groups, and the concerted effort of white owners to eradicate “heathen” (or non-Christian) customs—rendered the preservation of religious traditions difficult and often unsuccessful. Isolated songs, rhythms, movements, and beliefs in the curative powers of roots and the efficacy of a world of spirits and ancestors did survive well into the nineteenth century.

Historically during their most difficult times the African American relied on their religious beliefs to endure. During the civil rights movement black churches were often the target of racial violence because that was a place that African Americans spent most of their time. This was a place where they often held meetings to discuss their civil rights efforts. African Americans practice a number of religions, but Protestant Christianity is by far the most prevalent. Some African and African American also follow the Muslim and Judaism.

According to Fife, Kilgour, Canter and Adegoke (2010), “African spiritual traditions have historically held a central place in African American communalism (Mbiti, 1990) and were vital to survival during the time of slavery. In African and African American culture the concept of spirituality is inseparable from all other aspects of human experience. The spiritual and the physical are indistinguishable (Mbiti, 1990). A deep connection exists between humans, God, family, and group (Barrett, 1974).

Spirituality is not compartmentalized into systematized beliefs and practices but woven into everyday experience (Boyd Franklin, 1989). The Black church is the primary means through which many African Americans express their religious and spiritual beliefs and values (Richardson & June, 1997). This institution is a central force in African American childhood and adolescent identity and helps to shape ideas about what comprises community. ” Many African American children have christen ceremonies for they can even walk or talk.

African American families generally spend a substantial amount of time within their places of worship. Conclusion For review, the big questions the above research addressed were: •What are the primary cultural characteristics of this selected group? •How do the characteristics of this group impact its experience as a subculture in American society? •How might the cultural aspects of this group be applied to traditional psychological theory? •What are the implications of these characteristics for psychological theory and practice?

We have found that the primary cultural characteristics of the African America culture are their history of slavery in America, distinct family and parenting practices, slavery based evolution of their language, and their dedicated religious beliefs. The characteristics of this group impact its experience as a subculture in American society by enticing others in to the culture and sparking curiosity around the world. African Americans make up a small percentage of the minority in America. However African American culture dominates the world of music, fashion, and professional sports.

The cultural aspects of the African American group can be applied to traditional psychological theory when considering family dynamics, cultural perspectives, and how these aspects influence mental health. The implications of these characteristics for psychological theory and practice would focus on how the African American history of slavery in America influences their world view, how family and parenting practices mold their ideals of what a family should be, how religion influences their beliefs and actions, and how language distinguishes them from others and what psychological impact this has on them as a whole.

For many years African-American culture developed separately from mainstream American culture, both because of slavery and the persistence of racial discrimination in America, as well as African-American slave descendants’ desire to create and maintain their own traditions. Today, African-American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct cultural body. References Fife, J. , McCreary, M. , Kilgour, J. , Canter, D. , & Adegoke, A. (2010). Self Identification Among African American and Caucasian College Students. College Student Journal, 44(4), 994. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Hall, G. C. N. (2010). Multicultural psychology (2nd ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Medium. (2011). First Things First. Retrieved from http://firstthings. org/page/research/african-american-family-facts New York Daily Tribune, March 9, 1859 reprinted in Hart, Albert B. , American History Told by Contemporaries v. 4 (1928). Retrieved from http://eyewitnesstohistory. com Rydell, R. J. , Hamilton, D. L. , & Devos, T. (2010). NOW THEY ARE AMERICAN, NOW THEY ARE NOT: VALENCE AS A DETERMINANT OF THE INCLUSION OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE AMERICAN IDENTITY. Social Cognition, 28(2), 161-179. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 21 December 2016

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