Collection Description

Culture Name

African Americans

Culture Description

Most African Americans today descend from people forcibly brought to what is now the United States as slaves. Slaves were largely obtained from western and central Africa and came from diverse cultural backgrounds and spoke different languages. A creole language known as Ebonics emerged which allowed communication across different linguistic backgrounds. African Americans largely lived in the rural south until after World War II. Afterwards, large numbers migrated north to major cities. Beginning in the 1970s, the majority of African Americans were city-dwellers. African Americans share a common origin in Africa as well as common struggle against “racial” discrimination and prejudice, even for those in the highest social strata.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Regional and Ethnic Cultures


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The African American Collection (NK04) provides information on history, race relations, civil rights movement, culture and contemporary economic problems, circa 1620s to 2000s. The most basic source in the collection, covering the African American experience from the earliest days of slavery up to about 1970s, are Davis (1941, no. 15) and Pinkey (1975, no. 1). These works are further supplemented by several other works with different time and place focuses and theoretical perspectives. Four documents deal with racial segregation and discrimination both prior to and immediately after the civil rights movements as observed in Chicago (Drake and Clayton 1970, no. 22; 1970, no. 23) and two southern small towns (Kunkel and Kennard 1971, no. 27; Powdermaker 1968, no. 28). The information in these works is further enriched by three other documents, featuring in-depth portrayals of individual life histories (Gwaltney 1970, no. 2), communities and families (Young 1998, no. 26), and kinship networks and migration patterns (Stack 1997, no. 40).

Two documents in the collection provide a theoretically complex discussion of race relations and opportunities in urban communities, with particular reference to "ghetto culture" in a Washington, D.C. inner city neighborhood (Ulf 1969, no. 11), and the politics of race and place in a New York City suburb urban community (Gregory 1998, no. 38).  Two other recent documents are concerned with deconstructing erroneous representations of African Americans in scholarly discourse and public policy (Baker 1998, no. 41) and education and popular culture (Fordham 1996, no 39). One document focuses on the food taboos of African American Sunni Muslims and observes broad structural and semiotic entanglements between food and history (Rouse and Hoskins 2004, no. 42). The remaining documents discuss the continuity of racial discrimination and class- and gender –based exploitation in the lives of African American women (Mahon 2000, no. 44) and artists (Mullings 2005, no. 43).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.  

Overview by

Teferi Adem

African American Civil Rights - use "CITIZENSHIP (641)"

African American Civil Rights Movement - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Mfundalai, communal ceremony that seeks to introduce children with history off African Americans - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)" with "TECHNIQUES OF SOCIALIZATION (861)"

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

National Urban League - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS" - use "POLITICAL MOVEMENTS (668)"

Race Riots - use "BRAWLS, RIOTS, AND BANDITRY (579)"

Segregation and discrimination policies - use "ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)"

Single parent families - use "FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS (593)"

Slavery - use "SLAVERY (567)"

Subfamilies - use "EXTENDED FAMILIES (596)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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