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How African American folklore saved the cultural memory and history of slaves



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All over the world, community stories, customs and beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation. This folkore is used by elders to teach family and friends about their collective cultural past. And for African Americans, folklore has played a particularly important part in documenting history too.

The year 1619 marked the beginning of African American history, with the arrival of the first slave ship in Jamestown, Virginia. Slavery put African Americans not only in physical shackles. They were prevented from gaining any type of knowledge, including learning to read or writeduring their enslavement. Illiteracy was a means to keep control as it was believed that intellectual stimulation would give African Americans ideas of freedom and independence.

The effects of slavery on African culture were huge. The slaves had to forsake their true nature to become servants to Anglo Americans. And yet, even though they were forbidden from practising anything that related to their African culture and heritage, the native Africans kept it and their languages alive in America.

One important way of doing this was through folk tales, which the African slaves used as a way of recording their experiences. These stories were retold in secret, with elements adapted to their enslaved situation, adding in elements of freedom and hope. In the story of a slave from Guinea, recorded in The Annotated African American Folktales, he asks his white master to bury him face down when he dies, so that he may return to his home country which he believes is directly on the other side of the world:

Some of the old folks in Union County remembered that they had heard their fathers and grandfathers tell the story about Sambo who yearn…

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Chadwick Boseman fought Marvel for Black Panther’s African accents



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Marvel wanted Black Panther’s Wakandan people of Africa to speak with a British accent.

The studio were initially convinced that an African accent would be “too much for the audience to take in” and wanted to alter their dialect so that they spoke with an English twang, but Chadwick Boseman – who starred as T’Challa in the widely acclaimed film- fought against bosses because he felt it was important to keep the authenticity throughout.

Speaking on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, he said: “They felt that [an African accent] was maybe too much for an audience to take. I felt the exact opposite.

“Like if I speak with a British accent, what’s gonna happen when I go home? It felt to me like a dealbreaker. Having gone through similar situations before where I was willing to, like, stand up for it I was like, well, here we go again. So for them I don’t think it was that deep, I think it was an opinion. No, this is such an important factor that if we lose this right now what else are we going to throw away for the sake of making people feel comfortable? So yes that was a huge thing — once we decided to do it, we went for it.”

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Cape Town in survival mode as water supplies near zero



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