African and African American Linkages
Women and Western ways in Senegambia
Coastal areas of West Africa attracted European traders from an early date. Commerce helped spread European languages, religion, and cultural practices. As a consequence, some African captives had prior knowledge of the West before their enslavement. Scholars are playing closer attention to the implications of this. Senegambia developed commercial networks in which African women traders, called signares, played a major role. They negotiated "country marriages" with European employees of commercial houses based in France. European and African kinship ties and knowledge of local markets gave them an edge in the slave trade as well as other business. The illustration here is from the work of French painters who traveled to Senegambia in the 19th century. They depict the signares' mixed cultural and genetic heritage.
Art, culture and artisanate in Africa and America: compare the African and African American images from left to right.
Some African musical instruments accompanied captives on the Middle Passage and others could be reconstructed from natural materials available in the Americas. While authorities in slaveholding areas often banned the drum because of its communication powers, African instruments ultimately became part of an international musical repertory. Some instruments lost identification with their original players. The banjo, for example, is now more closely associated with the country and western music genre than with African American music.
Africans and African Americans in the age of the American Revolution:
Yarrow Mamout, painted by Charles Willson Peale, 1816.
Salem and Lt. Grosvenor, painted by John Trumbull, 1786.
A Black Loyalist, detail from the painting The Death of Major Peirson, by John Singleton Copley, 1782-84
Frontispiece from Phyllis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, published in London in 1773.
Silhouette of Paul Cuffee, wood engraving after a drawing by John Pole, 1812.