Essay on African American Vernacular

1225 Words Nov 4th, 2013 5 Pages
September 28, 2013

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of vernacular is “of, relating to, or being a nonstandard language or dialect of a place, region, or country.” In terms of African American history, the evolution of vernacular is very important and a very unique part of the culture. The African American vernacular has aided the development of a distinct culture in terms of what African Americans were subjected to from the installation of slavery. The African American vernacular was used as a way to expose the atrocities that African Americans were imperiled to through songs and language. “Go down Moses ,” a spiritual and “Strange Fruit,” performed by Billie Holiday are two songs that represent the
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(Gates Jr, 2003) They were also a means of releasing pent up emotions and expressing sorrow. More importantly, they served a subversive purpose. Songs like “Steal away to Jesus,” “Swing low,” “Sweet Chariot,” “Didn’t my Lord Deliver Daniel?” and “Go down Moses” served a dual purpose during the times of slavery. Spirituals were used as a code between the slaves to aide with the task of attempting to escape slavery or the thought of escaping from bondage.
“Go down Moses” first recorded by Paul Robeson, is a song riddled with ambiguous tones. On the surface, this song tells the story of the Israelites as slaves, which is found in the books of Genesis and Exodus. Moses was called by God to instruct Pharaoh to free the Israelites from the bondages of slavery. “Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land, tell old Pharaoh to let my people go” is one line from the song. African slaves forcefully bought to the Americas were converted to Christianity and although they weren’t taught to read or write, they were taught the teachings of the bible. White slave owners used the stories of the sufferings of the Israelites and the affirmation of “life after death” which is seen throughout the bible, to justify slavery. (Gates Jr. 2003) In the song, “Go down Moses,” Pharaoh represented the White Slave owners, Israel represented the African American Slaves and Egypt represented the Americas or the United States.
“Strange Fruit” is a song most famously recorded and

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