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Ring Shout, Wheel AboutThe Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery$
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Katrina Dyonne Thompson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038259

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038259.001.0001

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“Dancing through the Streets and act lively”

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Ring Shout, Wheel About

Katrina Dyonne Thompson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on the common order for bondsmen and women to dance, act lively, and smile in the domestic slave trade. Through an analysis of the coffle, slave pen, and auction block experiences of slaves, the chapter reveals the reasons why music and dance often were incorporated into the complex system of the domestic slave trade. It examines how performing coffles functioned as public advertisements for not only planters but also those hoping to achieve planter status. It considers the manner in which these singing and dancing coffles positively promoted the institution of slavery to non-slaveholders. It shows that the coffle served as an organized transportation network of slaves to the auction block within the interstate slave trade. While slave coffle scenes represented to whites a justification of their enslavement of blacks, they represented an avenue of agency for blacks. Dance and music also publicly presented the racial hierarchy of the time.

Keywords:   slave trade, coffle, slave pen, auction block, slaves, music, public advertisements, slavery, blacks, racial hierarchy

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