History 233 Reading Guide

DISCUSSION:  Slave Communities And African-American Culture

  • Charles Joyner, Down by the Riverside (1984)


  • How does Joyner state his purpose in this study? toward what goal?  From his perspective, how should we reconsider the conditions and experience of slavery?
  • Why does he choose not to begin his study of this slave community from an explicit theoretical/political framework?  What assumptions does he implicitly challenge? How does he consider traditional slave stereotypes from a new perspective?
  • What does Joyner mean by "culture," and what process of cultural change does he describe?  How does he use concept of the "creolization" of culture, and how does it change our understanding of the evolution and adaptation of slave communities?
  • To what extent is this study "universal" and to what extent is it era and/or geography specific?
  • How do African Americans "fit" into the progress of American society in the first half of the nineteenth century?

Evolution of a traditional New Orleans Black Indian Mardi Gras call and response song/chant—"Jockamo" ["Jock-A-Mo"] or "Iko Iko"—popularized by the Dixie Cups in 1965 (Audio Link).