African American Carnivals

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In the Catholic empire, the masters celebrated their carnivals as they had done in their homes in Europe. The Africans were given the same holidays as the masters took and throughout the period of slavery, Carnival was celebrated by both. In the British empire, however, things were different. The enslaved people were given three days’ holiday at Christmas. Rather than joining the masters in a big festival, the enslaved celebrated in their own, African-based way. For whatever reason, these celebrations, which appeared across the British Americas, were called jankunu. They came out at Christmas; they had very particular characters and dances; and they were performed almost exclusively to percussive instruments—drums, bells, and scrapers. Whistles
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