Symbols Associated with African-American Culture

Every human being belongs to a particular culture. Culture is determined by ancestral origin, language, tradition and custom, cuisine, symbols and religion (Maultsby, 1990).


I identify myself with African American culture. African-Americans are residents or citizens of America with partial ancestry from Africa. Most African-Americans are direct descendants of West African enslaved Africans. African-American history began in 16th century when the enslaved Africans in America rose up against Lucas de Ayllon, a Spanish explorer (Baugh, 1991). The Spanish explorer had founded a colony in present-day South Carolina. From Africa, the slaves were taken to the colony. The colony came to an end when the slaves fought and fled and sought refuge in homes of Native Americans. The leaders of the colony died shortly after the revolt and the escaped slaves occupied the North American soil (Baugh, 1991).

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This paper will discuss major components and symbols of African-American culture. Besides the African-American culture, this essay will describe other cultures that am integrated with and discuss the similarities and differences between the cultures.  The roles that race, age, class and gender play in African-American culture will also be discussed.

The Major Components of African-American Culture

The major components of culture are cuisine, language, religion, traditions and customs, social organization and arts and literature (Maultsby, 1990). The language of African-Americans is African-American English. The language arose during the trans-Atlantic African slave trade as a result of the need for the slaves to communicate among themselves in a language that the captors could not easily understand. African-American English is an African-American dialect, sociolect and ethnolect of American English. The English has similar vocabulary, pronunciation and grammatical structures with several West African languages (Maultsby, 1990). 

There is a connection between the cooking of African-Americans and West Africans. Many African American cooking ingredients are originally from West Africa. For example, yams/sweet potato, sesame, black-eyed peas, collards, peanuts and okra originated from West Africa (Osseo, 1993).

African American religion has influences from African spiritual traditions. Most African Americans are Baptists, the largest protestant denomination (Maultsby, 1990).

Symbols Associated with African-American Culture and their Meanings

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One of the various symbols associated with African-American culture is Adinkra symbols. The symbols were first used as an element of cloth decoration. The meaning of these symbols is greatness, leadership and charisma. The symbols are claimed to have provided inspiration and hence led to the creation of other symbols. They portray the significance of taking part in a leadership role (Bruce, 1998).

Music is another symbol of African-American culture. Black Americans musicians have developed and popularized African American music such as Rap, blues, gospel and jazz. Famous Black American musicians include Ice Cube, Yolanda Adams, Jill Scott and Billie Holiday. Hair trends, fashion and clothing associated with African-Americans include dreadlocks, cornrows, weaves and extensions, Fubu clothing, Baby Phat, baggy pants and the fade (Bruce, 1998).

Integration with other Cultures

Besides my own African-American culture, I integrate with a mixture of cultures. Such cultures include White American culture and Latino/Hispanic American culture. Hispanic Americans are residents of America whose origin is Spain or Latin America. Hispanics are Mexicans, Colombian or Venezuelan. Hispanic is an ethnic classification, not a race.  Spaniards were among the first people to inhabit the present day United States. Most of Latino Americans in the U.S are whites. Most Hispanic Americans are bilingual; they know two languages, English and Spanish. Majority of Hispanics Americans are Catholics.  Hispanics spend more in purchasing food compared to other cultures because most have large families. Hispanic American cuisines vary with the degree of spiciness and pungency (Rodriguez, 1995).

White American ancestries include German Americans, Swedish Americans, Dutch Americans, French Americans, Norwegian Americans, Italian Americans, Irish Americans and Scottish Americans. The origin of White American culture is from English, Irish, Scottish and Cornish settlers. The language of White Americans is American Standard English. Most White Americans are Protestants. The diet of White Americans includes potato, turkey, wheat, beer, cows, pigs, cow’s milk and chicken eggs (Seidman, 2004).

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The Roles that Race, Class, Age and Gender Play in African-American Culture

In African American culture, the primary role of men is providing economically for their families. The primary role of married women is to do housework and provide care to family members despite having a career. The role of children is to play while that of parents is to provide care to children. In African American culture, race has been associated with pride, oppression, accomplishment and alienation (Thompson, 1993). 

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