When our people were brought to the United States and enslaved, we came from hundreds of different tribes and communities. Few spoke the same language – but all were subjected to English. And survival meant getting creative.
The enslaved learned to communicate, quickly developing a form of English that borrowed from the enslavers’ dialects as well as some of the grammatical forms of African languages.
We developed a unique, but consistent, way of speaking that is today called “Black English” or “AAVE.” Dropping the endings off of words, the “habitual be,” and the The “Northern Subject Rule” are often-criticized aspects of Black English – but also exist in many other languages, including varieties of English across the globe.
Black speakers, however, are the ones typically criticized for it.
Despite being viewed as “improper,” AAVE can do things standard English can’t – we have more present tenses than standard English, for example. And the lengths non-Black people go to appropriate our language shows how appealing it actually is.
The ways the enslaved learned to speak English helped our people survive anti-Black oppression. Our language is a direct result of their brilliant minds and our shared culture.
Black English is a positive part of our culture. It is evidence that our people mastered a language forced upon us by racists and made it our own. It should be celebrated!