African American reactions to death and loss can be traced to their African roots, their centuries

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African American reactions to death and loss can be traced to their African roots, their centuries of slavery, their commitment to Christianity, and their post-slavery treatment in American society. Among those to explore death and dying in twentieth-century African America is author Karla FC Holloway. In her book Passed On: African American Mourning Stories: a Memorial Collection, Holloway thoroughly investigated the myths, rituals, economics, and politics of African American mourning and burial practices, and found that ways of dying are just as much a part of black history as ways of living. Holloway dug into the history of African American death through a series of interviews, archival research, and analyses of literature, film,…show more content…
She also reluctantly shared the story of her son, Bem, and the way his death moved her research to the personal arena. In her conclusion, Holloway sought to commemorate through observation, ceremony, and the calling of others to remembrance and celebration. Some researchers believe that understanding how African groups buried their dead might help us better understand the early years of African American cemeteries in the American South. Africa is large and diverse, however, so such an undertaking is difficult. Increasing the difficulty was the multitude of religious beliefs once the slaves arrived on the plantations—most planters were Christians, while some blacks were Moslems and many others held other religious beliefs. Anthropologist Margaret Washington Creel has examined a range of African emotional beliefs and religious practices to better understand slave religion. She found there were various beliefs among African Americans that dictated different ways to be buried in the South, but she found it difficult to discover the religious beliefs of African American slaves. White planters often tried to curb, or at least carefully observe, the religious training and activities of their slaves, but very few planter diaries recount the events surrounding slave burials. Death certainly was a way of life for African-American slaves and they had few opportunities to make the trip from slave settlement to cemetery for their friends and family.
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