Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas

By Sylviane A. Diouf | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Muslim Community

Muslims in America during slavery strove hard to keep their religion alive, in both the enslaved community and the larger Christian society. But to be a Muslim was more than just respecting the Five Pillars of Islam. It implied a distinctive lifestyle. Especially for West Africans, with their community-based traditions, Islam is a highly communal, public, and visible religion. It dictates and regulates the daily life, material culture, and demeanor of the faithful. To be a Muslim entails following strict dietary rules, behaving in a certain way, dressing in a particular fashion, and interacting with coreligionists and non-Muslims in the manner deemed appropriate. The Africans enslaved in the Americas were no exception; they formed close-knit communities and distinguished themselves in numerous ways, as they had in their homeland.

As a minority scattered all across North and South America and the Caribbean, and with an ethnically mixed population on any given plantation, the possibility of the Muslims forming coherent communities may seem to have been remote. Much has been said about the cultural disruption that the mixing of people from different areas induced. Recent research has shown, however, that the magnitude of this fragmentation has been overstated. For some new crops, such as rice and indigo, slaveholders relied on the expertise of Africans who were already involved in or familiar with such cultivation in their homelands. Large groups of Africans from the same area were thus transplanted as specialized units.1 In the United States, for example, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana slaveholders had a predilection toward Senegambians, who knew how to work the rice paddies and indigo plantations, and slaves from this area represented between 20 and 40 percent of the workers. Furthermore, pseudoanthropology was rampant during slavery and assigned particular qualities and defects to specific African peoples, so planters often chose their laborers from among a precise ethnic group and bought them in quantities.

As the slave owners' choices were based on ethnicity, even a thorough


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 254

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?