Slavery and the Making of AmericaPhoto of African-American children reading
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

The Slave Experience: Education, Arts, & Culture
Intro Historical Overview Character Spotlight Music in Slave Life Personal Narratives Original Docs
Music in Slave Life Education, Arts, & Culture
Recreational Songs return to introduction
Bile Them Cabbage Down


photo of a banjo photo of a fiddle
Featured Instruments
The banjo, also called the banjar, banger, bangelo, strum strum, and merrwang, has its roots in the Senegambia region of West Africa. Able to combine the rhythmic nature of African music and the melodic sounds of European music, the banjo was a popular instrument often accompanied by singing. Unfortunately, in the mid-nineteenth century the banjo, a featured instrument in black minstrel shows, became a frequent element in derogatory caricatures of African Americans.
The fiddle was a popular instrument with both black and white musicians and audiences. At social gatherings, slaves might dance the "back step," "buzzard lope," or "pigeon-wing" to the tunes of a fiddle.

"Alas! Had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarcely can conceive how I could have endured the long years of bondage ..."
- Solomon Northup
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