African Culture in America

National Museum Of African American History And Culture

By 1850 there were over 3 million black slaves working in the United States. When the slaves were captured and brought to the United States, they also brought their African culture with them. African Culture in America was more prevalent on the plantations that the slaves were forced to work.

The African culture in America was unique. Captured slaves from Africa did not always speak the same tribal languages, eat the same foods, and worship the same way.

 African Culture in America Facts

  • Enslaved people from Africa brought along many of their traditions and cultures with them.
  • African culture in America spread during the middle of the 19thcentury when slaves escaped and were freed.
  • African culture in America included music, food, and dance.
  • During the Second Great Awakening, many slaves and freed black people converted to Christianity. They incorporated their traditional songs and chants into a fresh form of gospel and folk music throughout the century.
  • Some of the unique foods that enhanced African culture in America were yams or sweet potatoes, different varieties of rice, black-eyed peas, and okra and lima and kidney beans.
  • Slaves and freed black people used traditional dances to celebrate and keep a rhythm while working in the fields or during time off.
  • Slaves and freed black people made traditional instruments like drums to use during their celebrations.
  • Some of the traditional languages from various African tribes made their way into mainstream English language.
  • The legacy of African culture in America had a lasting impact on regular life during the 19thcentury and onward in the United States.


African culture in America involved new forms of music. Slaves in the fields often sang and chanted songs to keep the rhythm while plowing, seeding, and harvesting fields. The chants were often accompanied by slaves banging on trees, pots, pans, and tools they used in the fields.

Their musical style helped to develop new folk music and new gospel music. As slaves became Christianized in the United States, they attended churches that included upbeat sermons. The new style of gospel music created during the Second Great Awakening was carried into the middle and latter portions of the 19th century, even after the slaves were freed.

African culture in America included folk music. The music created was important to the slaves and later freed black people. Some of the folk songs were sung in different African languages and later incorporated English into the lyrics.


African culture in the Americas included new foods. Each enslaved African was from a specific area in Africa that depended on crops that grew in their area. Many original foods followed Africans to the United States. Plantation owners also realized that slaves were more productive when they ate foods they were familiar with eating.

Specific foods like peanuts, varieties of rice, yams or sweet potatoes, okra, black-eyed peas, and several beans like lima and kidney. The spread of African foods was quick in the South and worked its way into northern and western cuisine as slaves were freed or escaped.


Enslaved Africans in the South brought many of their traditions about religion with them. The dance was an enormous part of celebrating different Gods, each African tribe worshipped. The different dances were a cultural phenomenon that included rhythmic beats to drums and chants. As the slaves were freed, their relationship with Christianity changed some of their religious beliefs, but they still celebrated in a much unique way than most people in the United States.

Legacy of African culture in America

The legacy of African culture in America is prevalent throughout the 19th century. New foods were consumed by all, music took on a unique tone and excitement, and dancing became an individual’s way of escaping a hard day. Although many of the freed slaves continued to practice their traditions and cultures, they also combined their ideas with those of people in the United States.


  1. What types of music were created using traditional African culture?
    Gospel and folk
  1. What did slaves and freed black people do to keep the rhythm while working in the fields or their job?
    Sing and chant
  1. What was the most common instrument used by slaves and freed black people while performing their traditional dances?
  1. African culture in America spread quickly throughout the 19thcentury after what event ended?
    The Civil War
  1. African culture in America included eating yams, which are also known as what?
    Sweet potatoes