- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (March 30, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807846945
- ISBN-13: 978-0807846940
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South New edition Edition
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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.
Deeply researched in both African and North American sources.
"nternational Journal of African Historical Studies"
[A] rare and creative inquiry into the origins of African identity in the United States from 1526 to 1830.
[A] conceptual "tour de force." No brief review can do justice to the nuances and complexities of Gomez's argument.
Gomez has yoked his admirable grasp of recent advances in African historiography with a subtle and sensitive reading of slavery.
"American Historical Review"
"Gomez gracefully and distinctively enlivens slavesU understandings of themselves as Igbo, Muslims, parents, children, and--eventually--UAfricansU and Americans.
"Journal of Southern History""
ÝA¨ rare and creative inquiry into the origins of African identity in the United States from 1526 to 1830.
ÝA¨ conceptual "tour de force." No brief review can do justice to the nuances and complexities of Gomez's argument.
[A] conceptual "tour de force," No brief review can do justice to the nuances and complexities of Gomez's argument.
[A] conceptual "tour de force". No brief review can do justice to the nuances and complexities of Gomez's argument.
Gomez gracefully and distinctively enlivens slaves understandings of themselves as Igbo, Muslims, parents, children, and--eventually-- Africans and Americans.
"Journal of Southern History"
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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. He suggests that only by the time of the Civil War were African Americans substantially Christian. Gomez demonstrates that except for an overly assimilationist minority among "freed" slaves, Christianity only caught on where African religeous practices were mixed into it. More importantly, Gomez explains the reason for the final victory of Christianity is that it could be manipulated to provide a rationale and hope of liberation from racism and oppression both metaphysical and physical, that the individual African religions could not provide. Gomez illustrates that what occured was the development of an African American religion, rather than the adoption of a European religion.
In the process, the reader will learn new and more accurate views of whence and when Africans were brought to America during the period of slavery. The reader will learn the general political and religious outlooks of the different major groups of Africans who came here. The reader will learn a survey of the historical, economic, and political upheavals in AFrica wrought by the slave trade.
This is a serious and important book, written at the highest level of scholarship. Thus, it is sometimes not easy reading and certainly is not written as a popular entertainment. Yet, even the casual reader who sticks with this book and turns to Gomez's notes and bibliographic material for more to read will be vastly rewarded.
Religion plays a key role in Gomez’s analysis. He argues, “The nature of the Islamic faith in West Africa was such that, upon transfer to North America, it tended to transcend the specific ethnicities of its adherents. Muslims in America, whether Fulbe or Mandinka or Hausa, had the capacity to relate to one another and to the non-Muslim world as Muslims” (pg 59-60). He believes “that Islam’s most enduring contribution to the African-based community was its role in the negotiation of intrasocial relations” (pg 82). Beyond organized religion, Gomez argues, “Significant portions of the West Central African metaphysical view survived the transatlantic passage, deeply influencing African American religion and culture” (pg 114). Even those who adopted Christianity did so while incorporating elements of African tradition, such as water baptism and ring shouts.
While West Central Africa was populated by various disparate groups, Gomez writes, “Once removed from the West Central African context and relocated to America, however, the commonality of the Bantu languages and cultures, their treatment as a single people y their captors, and the need to effect strategies of resistance necessarily encouraged the Congolese-Angolans to see themselves anew and forge ties of community” (pg 144). Drawing on this cultural background, he continues, “Within the context of a political struggle, which is exactly what slavery was, it ceased to matter whether specific cultural forms could be maintained over increasing spans of time and space. What mattered instead was achieving a self-view in opposition to the one prescribed by power and authority. To this end, the African antecedent formed the wellspring of cultural resistance” (pg 155). This “restructuring of the African identity, principally involving a move away from ethnicity toward race, would have been greatly facilitated by the creation of a lingua franca emblematic of the African’s altered condition in the New World” (pg 180). Gomez concludes, “Race as a unifying ideal was not imposed upon the community but was a concept suggested by the logic and reality of the servile condition and adopted and fashioned by those of African descent to suit their own purposes. That is, the creation of the African American identity was largely an internal process” (pg 220). Despite this, Gomez cautions that the appearance of racial solidarity opened itself up to fractures based on class. He writes, “Relative to whites, blacks have often sought to present themselves as a single people. Those doing the presenting have usually been privileged. But once removed from the presence of whites, fissures within African American society along class lines become readily apparent. The fact that cleavages were recognizable in the immediate aftermath of slavery means that their roots are to be found in the soil of slavery. The stratification of African America began somewhere” (pg 223).
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However, it is neither monotonous nor depressing.
In fact, it was necessary to do so, because the book did clearly explain...Read more