Academic journal article The Journal of African American History

Introduction: Explorations within the African Diaspora

Academic journal article The Journal of African American History

Introduction: Explorations within the African Diaspora

Article excerpt

The systematic study of the voluntary and involuntary movement of peoples out of Africa and their dispersal into Asia, Europe, and the Americas; and the history and cultural development of African-descended peoples in their new homelands is a major area of scholarly research and global analysis aimed at explaining the changes (and continuities) in the shift from the ancient or pre-modern world to the modern world and the postmodern era. While "African Diaspora Studies" has emerged over the last few decades as a distinct area of research and analysis for historians and other social researchers, for almost a century, research on the history, social conditions, and economic circumstances for African-descended peoples dispersed throughout North, South, and Central America and Europe has been published in The Journal of Negro/African American History. From J. Kunst's "Notes on Negroes in Guatamala in the Seventeenth Century," published in the The Journal of Negro History's (JNH) first volume (October 1916), to Frederick D. Opie's "Garveyism and Labor Organizing on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala, 1920-1921," in the Spring 2009 issue of The Journal of African American History (JAAH), the dispersion of African peoples throughout the Americas and Europe has been a major publication focus. (1) More recently, the migration of African Americans from the United States to Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa has also come under analysis in the pages of the JNH/JAAH, launching projects aimed at documenting the evolution of "African American Diasporas." (2)

The recent outpouring of published research on the African Diaspora has included studies of African peoples in various parts of the Ancient World; their movement from East Africa to Asia through the Indian Ocean slave trade; and their movement from West Africa through the Moslem-dominated trans-Saharan slave trade to the societies of the Middle East. (3) What the older studies focusing on the Americas and Europe have in common with more recent work examining Africans in the Middle East and Asia is the preoccupation with what Africans brought with them from Africa; and the significance of African influences and contributions to their new homelands. Following an Afrocentric research agenda and an acknowledged (or unacknowledged) preoccupation with "Africanity," these research projects seek to document black subjectivity in a wide range of locations and time periods. Depending on the group and their location, Africa as a source of identification and identity plays a greater or lesser role in cultural formations. Large concentrations of African peoples in the Americas, many recently arrived, help to account for high levels of cultural continuity between African ethnic groups and forced transatlantic communities in the New World. Language, technologies, religious beliefs, and other cultural practices were transferred from Africa, adapted and transformed in the new physical and cultural environments, and often circulated throughout the Diaspora. (4) This JAAH Special Issue explores the circulation of ideas, technologies, cultural practices, and social and political organizing among African-descended peoples within the Diaspora in the Americas from the 1770s to the 1950s.

There has been much debate recently in historical circles over the contributions of Africans, enslaved and free, to the development of rice as a profitable staple crop in North America, particularly in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. The importation of enslaved African workers into Low Country Georgia from South Carolina, the Caribbean, and later directly from the Rice and Grain coasts in West Africa became a well-established business in the city of Savannah by the 1750s, and ships built there became intimately involved in the international slave trade. In "Rice, Resistance, and Forced Transatlantic Communities: (Re)Envisioning the African Diaspora in Low Country Georgia, 1750-1800," Karen A. …

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