Free Essay Example: Cultural Exploration of African Americans

Published: 2024-01-22
Free Essay Example: Cultural Exploration of African Americans
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Sociology Society
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1325 words
12 min read


African Americans are one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States are it is critical to understand their way of life and distinctive to serve them better (Hope 342). African Americans are also known as Black Americans or Afro-Americans. The group is perceived to be descendants of enslaved black people in the US in the ancient period (Hughes 25). Recently, there has been a rise in racism in the United States, whereby Black Americans are the primary victims. Therefore, it is a wise decision for any social worker in the US to exploit the African Americans' cultural and historical background to understand them better and identify ways of serving them without signs of discrimination. When choosing relevant sources, I have employed the technique of using keywords while searching on the internet, such as "African Americans" and "culture." Also, the sources are from peer-reviewed articles to improve the credibility of the information. The paper states some interesting facts about African American culture and analyzes the group using the Iceberg Model.

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Key Discoveries

African Americans are mainly descendants of enslaved people who were from African countries traded by their colonies. Black Americans have a history of discrimination whereby their rights were limited and had no share in the US's economic, social, and political progress (Brody 493). However, the group has made significant contributions to American history and culture. Interestingly, at the beginning of the 21st century, Southern American states hosted more than 36 million African Americans, with ten states having a Black population greater than 1 million (Hope 345). Besides, the large cities have a high population of African Americans as New York, with more than 2 million Black people. Other cities like Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit had populations ranging between half a million to 1 million.

African American's contributions to the culture of the United States can be either a part or distinct from the mainstream American way of life. The distinctiveness of the Black American culture is primarily rooted in their historical experiences. The African American culture is like a blend of Central and West African cultures. Slavery impacted the cultures due to the bosses' restrictions to practice their original traditions (Hughes 28). Despite the conditions, some of their beliefs and cultural practices survived and blended with European cultures. African Americans perceive rituals and ceremonies as critical in keeping their ancestral culture. Like West African societies, African Americans believe that spirits dwell in their surroundings, which makes them treat the environment with care (Hope 348). Further traditional belief is that there is a spiritual life after death and the departed people were protectors of the living.

At the onset of the 18th century, Christianity began spreading in the United States and affected the traditional African spiritual practices (Hays 43). The enslaved Africans mixed their traditions with Christianity to form a complex religious dynamic. Despite the uniquely African American traditions' interruptions, the cultural aspects continue to flourish through music, art, cuisine, literature, and religion. Sociologists currently claim that African Americans' cultural ties with Africa have died; however, anthropologist demonstrates the existence of African cultures in Black Americans (Brody 495). The African American culture, for many years, developed separately from American culture due to several reasons. The first reason is due to slavery and the persistence of racial discrimination against Blacks in America. The second reason is the African American slave descendants' desire to create and maintain traditions unique from the American one (Campinha 127). Until today, African Americans have a distinct culture that influences the American culture.

The Iceberg Model

African American culture can be explored using the Iceberg Model since some of the aspects are visible while the larger portion is unseen (Hughes 29). The outer part is also the conscious section of culture, which can be seen and is the iceberg's tip. It composes the behaviors and some beliefs. The iceberg's internal part is the subconscious or conscious part of the culture, which is below the service of society and includes the beliefs and values. The significant differences between the internal and the external aspects of culture are that; the inner is challenging to change, implicitly learned, has subjective knowledge, and is unconscious (Hughes 35). The outer part is conscious, explicitly learned, quickly changes, and involves objective knowledge.

Level 1

African Americans have several distinctive visible features that render them unique. African American dance is one of the aspects of the culture that stands out today. The dance finds its roots in dances practiced by the African slaves in America and the British people's traditional folk dances (Campinha 104). Dance is a part of everyday life and for special African occasions. The traditional dances are characterized by getting down and ring shouts (Brody 498). Some significant African American dances include the Jitterbug, Charleston, Lindy Hop, and Swing. African American art is also found in museums, which took ceramic vessels, small drums, wrought-iron figures, and quilts (Campinha 108). The artifacts resemble crafts made in West and Central Africa. In aspects of attire, African Americans prefer Kente cloth, which has various colorful patterns and origins from Ghana. (Hope 349)

Level 2

African Americans have a unique rite of passage, which is different from white Americans. African American teens take classes in preparation for adulthood. The classes focus on spiritual aspects, responsibility, and leadership. Also, it is a norm for African American couples to "jump the broom" to reaffirm their African heritage (Hughes 37). African Americans have several funeral traditions that vary according to religion and location; however, there are some similarities. Upon the death of an African American, it is a norm for the family and friends to meet. Shortly after the death of a Black American, all friends and family members are notified, and they plan a meeting. The gathering is important in African American culture to provide spiritual and emotional support (Campinha 130).

Level 3

African Americans believe that it turns into a spirit whenever a person dies, and thus burial ceremony should be full of happiness but not grief. The spirituality of death is highly valued in the African American culture. They believe that death is transitory rather than final (Hughes 44). In most cases, burial ceremonies are called homecomings instead of funerals since it is thought that the person is going home. The end-of-life ceremonies are said to be for celebrating the deceased's life, accomplishments, and deeds. There is no mourning for the loss; it is celebrating the good things. The burials have events such as upbeat music, dancing, and many traditional foods that enable the gathering to be happy and celebrate the homegoing of their beloved friend (Brody 500).


It is delightful to learn about African Americans' culture and their way of life. It will be easy for me to interact and connect with Black Americans while pursuing my future career. I have found several aspects interesting such as burial traditions. I find it funny that when a person dies, instead of mourning, it becomes a celebration. Understanding their culture will help avoid prejudice while serving African Americans and facilitate long-term healthy relationships.

Works Cited

Brody, Gene H., et al. "Discrimination, racial identity, and cytokine levels among African-American adolescents." Journal of Adolescent, vol.56, no.5, 2015, pp:496-501, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Campinha-Bacote, Josepha, and Rebecca C. Lee. "People of African American heritage." Textbook for Transcultural Health Care: A Population Approach. Springer, Cham, 2020, pp:103-150, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Hays, Krystal. "Black Churches' Capacity to Respond to the Mental Health Needs of African Americans." Social Work & Christianity, vol.42, no.3, 2015, pp:43-54, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Hope, Elan C., Lori S. Hoggard, and Alvin Thomas. "Emerging into adulthood in the face of racial discrimination: Physiological, psychological, and sociopolitical consequences for African American youth." Translational Issues in Psychological Science, vol.1, no.4, 2015, pp: 342-350, Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

Hughes, Michael, et al. "Racial identity and well-being among African Americans." Social Psychology Quarterly, vol.78, no.1, 2015, pp:25-48. https://doi/org/10.1177/0190272514554043. Accessed 8 Dec. 2020.

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