Festivals Music and dance also played a prominent role in the lives of the slaves. Guatemala Map Tourist Attractions The sounds they created were again a blend of cultures, using African instruments such as the drum and kalimba alongside European instruments like the banjo, gourd, and fiddle. Satirical songs and dances, whose lyrics and structure mocked the pretensions of white society, were especially popular.
Festivals also were celebrated. In North Carolina, the Christmas holidays were recognized with a celebration known as John Canno. During the festivals of Election Day in New England and Pinkster Day in New York State and New Jersey, slaves put on their best clothes, sang and danced through the streets, and elected black governors. Those elected became leaders within the slave community for the following year, settling minor disputes between slaves, and sometimes even imposing punishments, although only in cases where no whites or free blacks were involved.
Whites tolerated or even encouraged these festivals, seeing them as a useful way to release tension in an oppressed, politically weak group. Although many black governors were owned by powerful whites, their authority was not simply a by-product of the master’s influence. These men carried real influence in the slave community by virtue of their intelligence, physical strength, or even the status that they had once held in Africa. Election Day and Pinkster Day were thus one of the slaves’ best opportunities to enjoy cultural independence and a small measure of power.
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