African and Black cultures have influenced the core fabric and have been instrumental in shaping American culture for generations. From 1650 to 1700, the predominant kidnapped and enslaved Africans were from Senegambian West Africa.
They were brought to South Carolina but were the first Africans to retain elements from their own culture and language. This significant change affected America’s developing language and culture. Their impact was profound in all aspects.
Despite being denied participation in the economic, social, and cultural structures of the United States for so long, the influence Black culture has on American culture runs deep. From language to fashion, there are countless valuable contributions from African American culture that impact our every day.
The nature of systemic racism and its need to control the narrative have omitted many achievements and accomplishments championed by African Americans from mainstream knowledge. As a reminder, we wanted to touch on some of the many ways Black culture influences American culture.
It might seem like language is what it is, but it’s actually incredibly complex, ever-changing, and packed with Africanisms. What are Africanisms? Simply put, it is distinctive African language elements that occur in a non-African language. Some words with African roots include banana, jazz, zombie, gumbo, bongo, banjo, yam, cola, and tote.
Society evolves words and even creates new ones. African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) comes to mind when you think of Black culture’s contributions. As the popularity of grammar, phrases and other aspects of AAVE grow, they’ve begun to inform how we communicate.
You can’t scroll on social media without witnessing this impact!
Fashion & Style
So many popular styles and iconic trends in fashion come from the Black community, and many people believe that there hasn’t been enough acknowledgment of this fact.
The influence has gone on for generations. In the age of the Harlem Renaissance, jazz and art became famous and influential by New York African-Americans. The Harlem Renaissance ignited a sense of individuality through fashion for the first time.
The new age of the roaring 20s was free-spirited. Times were changing, and Black culture and its style became popular. In the 1920s and 1930s, Black Americans’ swag and individual styles were proudly displayed and quickly copied.
In the mid-40’s, a significant figure emerged in the Modernist jewelry art industry. Arthur George (Art) Smith a Caribbean-American who gained international praise during the mid-20th century. His unique avant-garde designs pushed the boundaries of modernist jewelry art from the late 40s to the early 70s.
Mr. Smith redefined the American perception of body adornment. He trailblazed many mid-century jewelry design innovations, including bold geometric elements and little-used metals in jewelry at the time. Art Smith refrained from traditional fine jewelry materials such as gold. He favored silver brass, copper, aluminum, and embellished pieces with stones and glass.
His work was totally different from what other jewelry makers were doing at the time. Before Arthur Smith, jewelry creators never considered the concept of “wearable art.” He was a superstar of the Modernist jewelry movement.
We still see trends during the Harlem Renaissance and the Modernist movement in fashion today.The impact on style is everywhere, such as pinstripes, wide-brim hats, and oversized suits— to the late 90s hip-hop era’s obsession with colorblock and the sneaker culture.
The younger generations have recently repopularized the latter, showing how Black culture continues to move the needle of American culture in unique and expressive ways.
And we can’t forget about hairstyles! When hairstyles move out of the Black community to other communities is often considered appropriation.
But there’s no denying that certain styles have informed haircare and inspired looks that we see daily in the modern style of people from all communities.
Most people know that the R&B, hip hop, and rap music we hear today exists because of Black culture.
But the influence dates back even further, as enslaved African-Аmericans developed their own instruments and styles of music that evolved and helped shape other genres.
One of those instruments was the banjo; it was derived from a Lute called Kora and used widely in West Africa. The knowledge to craft the instrument was second hand to the enslaved Africans. With a few necessary modifications, the banjo was born. It became an intricate part of music and American culture in the South.
Gospel, blues, and even country music have origins from African American culture. In the 17th-century negro spirituals sung by enslaved African Americans were classified as the first American folk songs. Country music is a descendant of blues and folk music.
Black cultural influences go way back— during slavery, dance was used for social interaction and keeping African traditions alive. But in the early 1900s, African Americans in the South created Black Bottom Jazz dancing and the Charleston. Black Bottom dance displayed many elements that originated from African dance.
The Charleston was derived from Black American folk dance that paralleled movements from several traditional dances from Trinidad, Nigeria, and Ghana; it became a sensation in the 1920s. Both dances shattered the need for couples only dancing, allowing individual dance expression. Consequently, Black Americans revolutionized social dancing in America in the 20th century.
Later they repopularized traditional couple dancing with the creation of the Jitterbug. The Jitterbug was born in the Black American society dance ballrooms during the Swing era of the 30s and 40s. It was a boldly acrobatic dance with explosive moves, jumps, and swings that had common elements of African and Caribbean ceremonial dance movements.
This powerful and expressive nature of dance is reflected today in modern dance, especially in hip hop and breakdancing. The merge of these influences with others in American history has blossomed dance into a social and powerful method of bringing people together.
Culture Should Inform Your Marketing Campaign
Perhaps like no other, American culture is a unique blend of diversity. And it should be celebrated! The nuances of African American history seen throughout our culture are a spectacular connection to the past and a glimpse at an innovative future.
At ysp Digital Agency, we help brands bring diversity to their digital marketing strategies, social media, and influencer marketing campaigns. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to be more culturally inclusive in your marketing strategies.