The Toys and Games of Slave Families


Historic Dutch Artwork

When researching to find information on slave toys and games, people in many "Black Museums" in North America told me "We would love to have that information, but we just don't have it!", or even more often "Don't you understand? They were slaves. They did not have time to play!" Everything we had learned told us this last statement was wrong but it took a long while to find documentation to prove it.

In his essay "The Play of Slave Children" available in the book "Growing up in America. Children in Historical Perspective" David Wiggins writes the following...

An Old Wooden Balaphone with Gourds
to amplify the sound
Found in Buxton Historic Site

"... Work was generally not the basis for evaluating one's personal integrity and character. Conversely, play was one activity where slaves could realize a certain degree of dignity and could affirm and sustain their unique existence. They could withstand bondage much more easily when allowed to participate with fellow slaves in a variety of different play activities."

Suddenly We realized that We were correct. Everyone will find a way to play somehow. Slave children grew up with white kids. Adults would use what little time that they had to find ways to play, to laugh, or maybe even to dance.

Also in In the book "The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America", by Lawrence W. Levine, is this quote.

"Elsewhere I have argued that the master class in the antebellum South had an unconscious stake in seeing their African slaves maintain much of their cultural distinctiveness since it was far more difficult to justify the enslavement of a kindred folk than of a people whose behavior patterns were sufficiently different to allow them to be branded with such commonly used epithets as 'primitive', 'barbaric', and 'childlike'."

This seems to point to the fact that there would likely be more toys and games of African origin than we might think of considering elapsed periods of time, culture, etc. Thus, their toys and games would likely be a mixture of African with American input, severely limited by the few things that their time and almost negligible amount of money (considering slavery) would permit.

Please Click to continue to see information on toys and games of slave and post slave children. Slave Toys and Games

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