Celebrate Pinkster, June 8
April 20, 2003 1:31 PM   Subscribe

June 8: The forgotten holiday of Pinkster. At first celebrated among the Dutch communities of New York and New Jersey, by the 19th century the holiday of Pinkster was heavily African-American, and cross-culturally infused. In Albany, the week-long observance began the seventh Sunday after Easter at Pentecost, corresponding with the Episcopal Whitsunday, by raising a large camp of temporary shelters at "Pinkster Hill." Crowds of blacks and whites would mass, waiting for the appearance of King Charles, "the chief character in a ceremony on a Dutch Holiday in America[...,] an African-born black wearing a British brigadier's jacket of scarlet, a tricornered cocked hat, and yellow buckskins." Successive nights included food, drink, sports and Toto, the Guinea dance, which included the "most lewd and indecent gesticulation, at the crisis of which the parties meet and embrace in a kind of amorous Indian hug, terminating in a sort of masquerade capture, which must cover even a harlot with blushes to describe."
posted by Mo Nickels (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know the first link says "On May 18, experience the only authentic recreation" of Pinkster but they've got the date wrong, probably for their own reasons.

Several pages (and a thorough bibliography) are devoted to this holiday in the very excellent book Somewhat More Independent: The End of Slavery in New York City, 1170-1810 by Shane White. 1991 University of Georgia Press, Athens.

Page 99: “There can be little doubt that such activities were New World descendants of the rituals associated with the festivals of misrule, or the world turned upside down, analyzed so ably by historians of early modern Europe such as Natalie Zemon Davis. For a short period those at the bottom of the social hierarchy—women, apprentices, the young, and in the case of Albany, the slaves—reversed their lowly status and lack of power. On Pinkster Hill, and immediately preceding and after the festival on the streets of Albany, an African-born slave assumed the position and the authority normally accorded to the local patroon. The constrictions of an ordered society were temporarily loosened, a transformation all the more striking when the most important divisions in the social structure were racial. During the festivities slaves attained a rough equivalence to their master, a feature conveyed by our observer's caustic comment, on strolling through the encampment, that ‘here lies a beastly black and there lies a beastly white sleeping or wallow in in the mud or dirt.’”
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2003

Of course, that should be "1770-1810."
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:34 PM on April 20, 2003

How interesting, thanks. I did a quick search for its Angolan roots, but no joy.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:08 PM on April 20, 2003

[This is good]
posted by Shane at 9:34 PM on April 20, 2003

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