Cultural Impact

Based upon African and Caribbean ancestral traditions, Charleston’s African American cultural expressions have always covered a wide range of forms. Songs and dances emerging from sorrow and misery merged with multiple expressions of praise and thanksgiving and evolved into innovative ways to declare “I am somebody” in spite of society’s rejection of that fact.

While some of that artistry may have been used to serve the needs and desires of the ruling class (leatherworking, embroidery, tailoring and other European inspired uses), banjo playing, jazz rhythms, ring shout dancing and folk crafts were reflections of Black life maintained primarily within separate communities. Such gifts have been shared and adopted by people of all identities, and an expanding international regard for these expressions attract many looking to find the source of these cultural “roots”.

In the 21st century, those retentions throughout the Lowcountry have expanded the appreciation for drawing from ancient memory and custom and moving toward some forms of amalgamation with other cultures. Now, African derived images, sounds, shapes and movements are becoming more respected, embraced and modeled, rather than ridiculed and discounted.

Also, the limits often imposed upon Black artists of all types are expanding to include excellence in arenas not thought to be “typical” of African descendants.