Exchanging Our Country Marks

The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South

By Michael A. Gomez

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 4 maps, 11 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4694-0
    Published: March 1998
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6171-4
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6943-2
    Published: November 2000

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The transatlantic slave trade brought individuals from diverse African regions and cultures to a common destiny in the American South. In this comprehensive study, Michael Gomez establishes tangible links between the African American community and its African origins and traces the process by which African populations exchanged their distinct ethnic identities for one

defined primarily by the conception of race. He examines transformations in the politics, social structures, and religions of slave populations through 1830, by which time the contours of a new African American identity had begun to emerge.

After discussing specific ethnic groups in Africa, Gomez follows their movement to North America, where they tended to be amassed in recognizable concentrations within individual colonies (and, later, states). For this reason, he argues, it is possible to identify particular ethnic cultural influences and ensuing social formations that heretofore have been considered unrecoverable. Using sources pertaining to the African continent

as well as runaway slave advertisements, ex-slave narratives, and folklore, Gomez reveals concrete and specific links between particular African populations and their North American progeny, thereby shedding new light on subsequent African American social formation.

About the Author

Michael A. Gomez is a professor of history at New York University.
For more information about Michael A. Gomez, visit the Author Page.


"Exchanging Our Country Marks will be an important addition to the literature on how Africans brought to this country developed into African Americans in their crucial first generations on American soil. Gomez's use of folktales is imaginative and a vital contribution to understanding the intellectual environment in which African American society was formed. His strong and extensive background in African history makes Gomez a fine candidate to write this book."—John K. Thornton, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

"This very important book deepens our knowledge about the major African ethnic groups important to the cultural formation of the United States over time and place and reframes the discourse on African American cultures."—Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Rutgers University