Harriet J. Bauman
The Blacks in Louisiana created their own culture combining elements of their African and Caribbean heritage with elements of the European culture to which they were exposed. George Washington Cable, Lafcadio Hearn, and Alcée Fortier preserved the Black cultural heritage in the gombo songs, folktales, and proverbs the Blacks told and retold to their children.
The language spoken by the Blacks, according to Alcée Fortier was not a broken-down French but their own language.
It is the transformation by ignorant African slaves of the French language into a speech concise and simple, language at the same time soft and musical. The tendency is to abbreviate as much as possible, both in the form and in the construction of the sentence. All parts of speech not absolutely necessary to the meaning, are thrown out of the sentence. There is hardly any distinction of gender and the verb is simplified. . . (Crété, p. 156)
Some examples of this language are:
became “ladan,” (over there),
became “michié,” (sir or mister), Petit ma”tre became “timaite,” (young master).
The literature of the Blacks, such as their proverbs and folktales were African in origin, used animals as heroes, had a humorous tone and contained elements of surprise and the supernatural. They showed a good understanding of human nature.
The music of the Blacks contained the flavor of eighteenth century Branch because as slaves, they were exposed to minuets, waltzes, polkas, operas, concerts, and ceremonial music. The African and Caribbean rhythms of their recent past also influenced their music.
Creole music lacks the emotional depth of the spirituals and blues, those outshoots of the Afro-American experience. But although Creole music occupies a different emotional plane, it also shares a bond with the music of American blacks: the bond of all blacks transported to American shores. . . Music and religion are intimately linked in black culture. . . Afro-Christian music was virtually unknown among Creole slaves. No attempt was made to ‘Africanize’ the Catholic liturgical music, and the voodoo chants retained their original African character. . . The disassociation between sacred and profane music that we find among the Creole slaves is unique and surely attributable to their French Catholic heritage. (Crété, p. 139)
In addition, Black Creole music consisted of rounds, love songs, ballads, and laments. Improvisation was extremely important in this music.
was a form of religion brought to this hemisphere by slaves from Dahomey and the Guinea Coast. Immigrants from Santo Domingo settled near New Orleans in the 1820’s and brought their worship of voodoo with them. It was a matriarchal institution giving much power to women. Even though the slaves were baptized and considered to be Catholics, they continued to worship their African gods. Catholic saints and the African gods coexisted peacefully.
The slaves worshipped the gods of the sea, thunder, iron, trees, mountains, fire, wind, and rivers. A
was a divinity-which could have a double nature. There were three kinds of gods: good spirits like Moses and the Catholic saints; spirits of death and overlords of cemeteries; and evil gods who used magic. “Because they look’ ed on natural phenomena as supernatural forces, they made a place in their pantheon for Saint Sun, Saint Moon, Saint Earth, and the Sainted Stars.” (Crété, p. 169)
The followers of voodoo met at night for their ceremonies. They worshipped the snake god or
. Free Blacks were the priests and priestesses. The ceremony usually began “with the snake ritual, presided over by a voodoo ‘king’ and ‘queen.’ The bow containing the snake was placed on the ground, and the voodoo queen climbed upon it and began to ‘writhe about, possessed by the snake’ 8 Spirit 2 and to give tongue to oracular pronouncements.’ The voodoo king then ‘traced a large circle with some black substance, and beckoned the candidates for initiation to enter the circle. A small bundle containing herbs, horsehairs, fragments of horn and other strange substances was placed in his hands.’ The king then tapped the initiate on the head with a wooden paddle, meanwhile intoning an African chant that was taken up by the crowd. Gradually the entire group of spectators fell into a trance.” (Crété, pp. 167-168) Some participants fainted, others moved in a frenzied manner.