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Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South Paperback – March 30, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0807846940 ISBN-10: 0807846945 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (March 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With its legacy of brutality and of the horrific overseas passage, the transatlantic slave trade may be imagined as the kidnapping of Africans without regard to nationality or ethnicity. Based on his research, however, Michael A. Gomez suggests that Africans, upon arriving in America, were dispersed much more closely along ethnic and cultural lines than previously acknowledged. The underlying theme of his provocative work, Exchanging Our Country Marks, is that while blacks eventually replaced their African ethnic identities with new racial ones after arriving in the American South, they retained much of their original cultures far longer than was originally suspected. Some of his most interesting evidence of this comes in the form of runaway-slave advertisements, which identified the slaves by their ethnic roots ("Dinah, an Ebo wench that speaks very good English"). By scrutinizing ex-slave narratives, stories, music, and even the location and nature of slave rebellions, Gomez pieces together a genealogy of blacks in the American South, attempting to examine their notions of identity. Of course, much is based on significant speculation, a fact that only underscores the difficulty of such scholarship. Gomez manages to present a wide range of information clearly as he expands on a wealth of recent research regarding the slave trade and the history of blacks in America, making Exchanging Our Country Marks a vast and creative exploration of African identity in the United States from 1526 to 1830.

Review

[T]his book provides a fascinating treatment of the early history of African-American identity, one that should engage Americans of all races and ethnicities, and not just those who can claim this genealogy as an ancestral possession. -- The New York Times Book Review, K. Anthony Appiah

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ras Michael Brown (rasmlb@arches.uga.edu) on June 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
Prof. Gomez has used a wealth of sources, many of which have been underutilized or neglected, to write a rich and nuanced meditation on the evolution of identity among Africans and their progeny in North America. His use of folklore points the way for new research in a field that oddly fails much too often to consider the voices of people of African descent. Every student at every level with interests in African-American studies or African Diaspora Studies must know this work.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on December 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is of decisive importance, for by studying the convergence of an African American nationality out of the various nationalities and ethnicities that people were brought here from Africa, Michael Gomez underlines the function of the African-origins cultures and the construction of an African-American culture in a process of resistance and opposition to the inslavement, dehumanization, and degredation that Africans and their descendants have face.

Contrary to many popular assumptions, Gomez shows that in colonial and early independent America slave holders and slaves were quite aware of the different African cultures and ethnicities represented among the enslaved. Trade patterns, affinities of slave buyers for certain types of ethnicities, beliefs that some peoples were good for some tasks, others for others, led to many concentrations of slaves from the same culture and language groups in colonial America. This ensured that Africans in American tended to preserve very much of their native cultures, religions, and outlooks.

Indeed, Gomez illustrates that in language and religion large sections of the African American people in becoming retained their African religion, and at first retained their African languages, and then began our own African American language (Black English) precisely because the context of the dominant culture and its language and religion were hostile to the human dignity of Africans in America and their descendants.

Gomez's solid research and clear evaluation of massive amounts of original sources upsets many ideas on African American history that were assumptions and not facts. One of the most important is the lateness and difficulty that Christianity had in gaining seizable conversions among Africans in America and their descendants.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Gomez has done a tremendous service to the study of Africana by giving tangible evidence to what have heretofore been the answers rather than the questions on the who, what, where, when and WHY's of the African slave in America. Readers will be surprised at the degree to which something other than fact has helped form the base of their "knowledge". Suddenly the image of tobacco or rice will gain greater resonance than cotton. Virginia and Senegambia, for example, will have new and sharper meanings as we better ferret out who we were as Ghanaians, Senegambians, Angolans, etc. and how we became who we are as African-Americans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Big Sistah Patty on March 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. I want every one of African descent to read this book. It is fantastic. This book is in my 10 list.

Early on the Africans were well aware of their ethnic identities, but over time, they were forgotten, and a new people emerged. Now this took generations. It was a slow and torturous process.

If you want to educate yourself about black folks in America and where they came from, and how they evolved, read this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Burwell on October 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
A superb book that is a "must read" for every African African American man, woman and child. This book is the stuff of seminars, workshops and discussion groups at all levels. One of the fascinating positions exposed by Gomez was why it took the diverse ethnic Africans to achieve an African American consciousness. The depth of documentation was monumental. I always wondered why the color "red" had such significance in the African American "red clawt" tales. Gomez' book inspired me to research this aspect of African American tales. Thank you Mr. Gomez!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lionel S. Taylor on December 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
An intresting book. The authors shows that there are several connections and cultural retentions between the African American community and their African forberers. Also attempts to trace when Africans began to stop being identified by ethnicity and started to identify by race. Makes the point that what started to be the largest divider amongs African Americans was class. A long but intresting book.
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