What: “Lost Voices of the Afro-Celts”
Who: Michael Newton, PhD Celtic Studies
Where: Toy Lounge, Dey Hal, UNC
When: Thursday November 17th, 3:30 PM
Summary: Modern American consciousness is highly racialized: we are told implicitly and explicitly that our skin color determines our race, our identity, to whom we belong and what belongs to us. The reality of American history, even in the South, is not so easily segregated, however. There have been many fascinating exchanges and interactions between people of African ancestry and people of Scottish Highland ancestry.
African-Americans came to speak Gaelic fluently during the eighteenth century, and services in Gaelic lasted even longer in black churches than in white churches. African-Americans, as professional musicians in the South, played a variety of instruments and styles, including Scottish Gaelic tunes for dances. Like every other group of European immigrants in America, Scottish Highlanders took different roles in the institution of slavery: many Gaels, especially in the South, became slave-holders, while others were fire-brands agitating for
abolition. In both cases, Highlanders left their mark on the history of African-Americans. Those expressing the injustice done to Scottish Gaeldom, especially during the Clearances, made explicit parallels with the African experience.
This lecture will explore some of the forgotten connections between African-Americans and Scottish Highlanders and remind us of the rich cultural interactions between people of all ethnic origins in North America. Celtic heritage is not reserved exclusively for “white” people: it is an important element in the history of our nation and belongs to people of all colors.
More on Michael Newton:
Dr Michael Newton has a PhD in Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh. He has written several books and numerous articles on Highland history and tradition, and has become the leading scholar on the culture and history of immigrant Highland communities in the United States. He is a fluent Gaelic speaker, a proponent of Highland song and dance, and a published creative writer in the Gaelic language.
The Centering the American South lecture series of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.