Jonkonnu: Safety Valve

music
ambience : Jonkonnu drumming and singing

In New Bern, North Carolina the winter holiday season of the early 1800’s was an occasion for revelry, song, and elaborate costumes . . . all designed to keep the fabric of society from tearing itself apart. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is Pulse of the Planet. We’re listening to a re-creation of the annual Jonkonnu masquerade, an important part of life in eastern North Carolina during the early nineteenth century. For one day each year, African slaves were free to attend a raucous celebration, when the bonds of slavery were loosened – at least, temporarily.

During the Jonkonnu festival, black dancers and musicians traveled from house to house, singing bawdy songs and collecting money. Master and slaves would meet and shake hands on otherwise forbidden territory — the front steps of the slave holder’s home. It was an extraordinary event for its time, and a chance to forget the harsh realities of slavery. Historian Simon Spalding.

“I would suggest, and other scholars have suggested, that Jonkonnu in the United States prior to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, provided a sort of safety valve for a system that I think no one would deny, created some terrible — in some cases intolerable — pressures on the people who were part of the system, the system of slavery.”

By the end of the 1800’s, the Jonkonnu festival died out as newly freed African-Americans tried to put reminders of slavery behind them.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Jonkonnu: Safety Valve

In the early 1800's, letting off steam at the annual Jonkonnu celebrations may have been a social safety valve.
Air Date:12/30/2009
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience : Jonkonnu drumming and singing

In New Bern, North Carolina the winter holiday season of the early 1800's was an occasion for revelry, song, and elaborate costumes . . . all designed to keep the fabric of society from tearing itself apart. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is Pulse of the Planet. We're listening to a re-creation of the annual Jonkonnu masquerade, an important part of life in eastern North Carolina during the early nineteenth century. For one day each year, African slaves were free to attend a raucous celebration, when the bonds of slavery were loosened - at least, temporarily.

During the Jonkonnu festival, black dancers and musicians traveled from house to house, singing bawdy songs and collecting money. Master and slaves would meet and shake hands on otherwise forbidden territory -- the front steps of the slave holder's home. It was an extraordinary event for its time, and a chance to forget the harsh realities of slavery. Historian Simon Spalding.

"I would suggest, and other scholars have suggested, that Jonkonnu in the United States prior to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, provided a sort of safety valve for a system that I think no one would deny, created some terrible -- in some cases intolerable -- pressures on the people who were part of the system, the system of slavery."

By the end of the 1800's, the Jonkonnu festival died out as newly freed African-Americans tried to put reminders of slavery behind them.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music