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Family and religious and cultural traditions played an important role in helping slaves to combat the harsh miserable life they had to endure under slavery. Slaves took some comfort in their community and culture. They took great effort to maintain strong ties to one another and to their heritage. The most important unit of slave communities was the family. More than physical punishment they feared being sold to another plantation as it would separate them from their family. The enslaved parents tried to ensure that their children never forget their heritage. Family history, traditions and customs were passed on to the children through folk tales. Most of these tales had a moral behind it and provided lessons on ways to survive slavery. Slaves used clever animal characters like Brer Rabbit, called tricksters to show how to survive by outsmarting the slave owners. These stories had powerless animal characters like tortoise, spiders and Rabbits who through their wit and guile outsmarted the powerful.
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Religion also played an important role in the lives of the slaves. By the end of 1800 s most of the slaves were Protestants. The white ministers tried to control slaves by saying that God wanted slaves to obey the slave holders. However slaves noted that in Bible all men are considered equal. The slaves believed that God would deliver them from the hardships of slavery and they had faith that one day they would live in freedom. Generally on Sundays if they did not have any work they try to have something resembling a service in their quarters itself. Some slaves sang spirituals; emotional Christian songs of sorrow that blended African and European traditions to express their religious beliefs. For example “The Heavenly Road” reflected slaves’ belief in their equality before God. They sing while working in the fields to communicate messages for example a song about Moses if Harriet Tubman was coming. They often sang songs on taboo subjects like freedom disguised in the form of religious songs. "Swing Low
Sweet Chariot" and "Follow the Drinking Gourd" are some of them. The Slaves often worshipped in secret out of sight of the slave holders. Some historians called slave religion the invisible institution.