South Carolina – African Americans – Glossary

South Carolina SC African-American History SC African American Glossary

Glossary of SC African American Terms

  • Diaspora - Originally, the scattering of Jews after the Babylonian exile. Here, the scattering of Africans across the globe as a result of slavery.

  • Gibbet - A gibbet is the same as a gallows – a structure used to hang someone. The bodies of lynching victims were sometimes left hanging from gibbets for many days as "examples" of what could happen to people who did not behave as members of conservative white hate groups thought they should. The verb to gibbet can mean to kill by hanging or to expose to public scorn.

  • Gullah - A creole language that combines African words and sentence structure with English. Gullah is still spoken by many black people along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia (it is often called "Geechee" in Georgia). The word Gullah may come from the Liberian tribe Gola (or Gula) or the Angolan tribe Ngola.
    More about creole languages, and Gullah in particular
    More about the Gullah people and their traditions

  • Freedman - Before 1865, a freedman was any person of African or partial African descent who was not a slave because he or she was:
    – able to purchase his or her freedom
    – granted freedom upon his or her master's death
    – the child of a free woman

    After the Civil War, the term "freedmen" included all people of African or partial African descent living in the United States.

  • Jim Crow - The term "Jim Crow" comes from the name of a character in an old minstrel show. It means discrimination against blacks or segregation of blacks and whites.
    More about some of South Carolina's Jim Crow laws

  • Manumit - To manumit means to free from slavery, to emancipate. Masters occasionally granted manumissions in their wills, especially to their mistresses and children.

  • Mulatto - Any person of partial African and partial European descent. Many mulattos were children of white masters and the black slave women they owned.

  • Mustees - Any person of partial Native American and partial European descent.

  • Muster - To assemble or summon, especially troops. "Mustered in" means to enlist in military service. "Mustered out" means to discharge from military service.

  • Reconstruction - Reconstruction began with the end of the Civil War in 1865, and its goal was literally to rebuild the South. Homes, schools, hospitals, and farms had been destroyed by battle, neglect, and Sherman's March. Government was in shambles. Families were torn apart and fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers were dead. Almost every aspect of society, as both white and black Southerners had known it, revolved around an economic system that no longer existed. Both groups were forced to find new methods of survival.
    More about the Reconstruction and the particular challenges African-Americans faced with the coming of freedom

  • Restoration - When Reconstruction ended in 1877, the South was still in horrible shape. Conservative whites began to do things that, in effect, restored the South to its pre-war condition by returning African-Americans to their pre-war condition. Without federal troops, black people had no protection from this corruption. Fraud and violence swept the land. Progress for African-Americans in the South basically came to standstill for the next 100 years.

  • Yeoman - The owner of a small farm who tends his own fields.

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