Skip to main content

Browse Mode

Slaves: their work and music in North America

A banjo player

Slaves made new instruments that survive today

THE BULK of African slaves in America worked on large cotton and rice plantations. Although slavery was made illegal in 1808 it continued to exist in the southern states until president Abraham Lincoln came to power and sought to abolish it.

At the end of a civil war between the industrial northern states and the southern states where the plantations were, slavery was abolished in 1865.

In the ‘Deep South’ African slaves were forbidden to touch any musical instruments because their masters felt they might use them to communicate secret messages and cause rebellion. However some slaves made instruments such as the banjo. This was based on African stringed instruments.

The banjo has gone on to become an instrument that is played in many different musical contexts. It is widely used in country & western music but it was also used in the early days of jazz. Today there are artists such as Bela Fleck who use the banjo in music that mixes hip-hop, funk and jazz.

Like this? Send it to a friend

Like this? Send it to a friend: