On "sauntering" blacks

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat May 29 17:08:28 UTC 2010

I believe there was brief discussion here a while ago of whether the
sauntering walk of some 20th century African-Americans has a
precedent.  See Gary B. Nash's _Forging Freedom: The Formation of
Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720--1840_ (1988), p. 219:  In
contrasting the respectable, white-emulating upper class with the
"mass of black city dwellers", he writes: "Some of them spoke in a
southern dialect, drank and gambled, dressed flamboyantly, sometimes
ran afoul of the law, and affected a body language---the sauntering
gait, unrestrained singing and laughing, and exuberant dancing---that
set them apart from 'respectable' black society."

Nash does not give a specific date for this description, but context
puts it between 1790 and 1830.  And lest one ascribe this
characterization to a white, 20th century intellectual,
African-Americans of the period wrote similarly about lower-class
blacks.  (See writers of the "elevation" movement.)


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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