On "sauntering" blacks

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 31 16:55:00 UTC 2010

The whites sauntered too in the 18th century:  In Hawthorne's "My
Kinsman, Major Molineux", Robin sees that "travelled youths,
imitators of the European fine gentlemen of the period, trod jauntily
along, half-dancing to the fashionable tunes which they
hummed."   (MKMM is set in two conflated periods, the 1730s and the 1760s.)

The source of African-American sauntering?


At 5/29/2010 01:08 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>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

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

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