A few weeks ago, I came across a video on YouTube titled, “Father of 21 Children By 14 Women Gives Interview in Ebonics”, that inspired me to answer the question of Why Do Black People Speak Ebonics? The video was a recording of a black man having an interview with his local news station in regards to him having 17 different baby mothers. In this interview, the guy spoke English the same way the majority of Black Americans speaks English — with a slang to it. So the person (a white guy) who posted the video proposed a question to all viewers, as to why do black people speak broken English, but other races who migrate to America speak proper English. He stated that He was not a racist and that He really wanted to know the answer.
However, the fact that this guy chose to post this particular video of all videos that he could have used of black people speaking Ebonics, hints that he had a different agenda in posting his video. Nonetheless, since I knew the answer, I wrote over 4 paragraphs explaining to him in full detail exactly why we speak English the way we do and why I’m a proud speaker of Ebonics (although I don’t write like it). But shortly after (a few days) I posted my comment to his video, he deleted my comment so that no one else could see it. The reason that he chose to delete my comment is because I revealed to his audience an unknown fact, in regards to the language of Black America, that He (and most white people) could not argue against and simply did not want to accept.
And that unknown fact is that black people speak ebonics because we are descendants of the biblical Hebrews, who were known as eboes during their enslavement in America, that spoke ebonics and passed it down to us. But since the creator of that video chose to hide this truth from his audience, I thought it would be a great idea to share it with you — my audience. So that is what I will be revealing to you for the remainder of this article.
Where The Term “Ebonics” Came From
The word ebonics was originally coined to refer to the English language of the African Diaspora — black people living in the Americas and the Caribbeans whose ancestors were brought here on slaveships (you and me). The term was created in the 19th century by a group of black scholars who disliked the negative connotations of terms like ‘Nonstandard Negro English’ that had been coined by White America in years previously. Therefore they came up with the term, ebonics. In case you didn’t know, the word ebonics comes from the word ebony, which means ‘black’ and the word phonics, which means ‘sounds’. So at its most literal level, ebonics simply means: a black person’s speech of english.
However, this only scratches the surface of what truly lies behind the word ebonics. There is a much deeper history to this word that only black people would know. The black scholars who coined this term in the 19th century didn’t just come up with this term solely based on the color of our skin and the way we spoke English; they also created it based off of the roots of the word and how it related to the secret identity of our people. To explain what I mean, let’s start with the word, Ebony, which is where the word Ebonics came from.
The name Ebony was not a term that we created for ourselves; it was a term that Caucasians (white people) created for us. During the 15th – 18th centuries, when white people were invading the coasts of West Africa to capture and purchase our ancestors from African (Hammite) and Arab (Ishmaelites) slave traders; they would often create names for us so they could describe us to other Caucasian slavers. Reason being, is because blacks and whites spoke two completely different languages back then. The blacks spoke their native tribal languages and the whites spoke their barbaric european languages. Since whites were invaders of all lands and not natives to any; they could not understand the indigenous languages of the tribes living in Africa.
As it relates to our ancestors that came here on slave ships from West Africa, the vast majority of them came from a tribe called, “Ndi-Gboo” or “igbo” for short, which means “Hebrew” in English. The igbo people are bloodline descendants from the House of Judah in the bible and spoke only igbo (hebrew) and Aramaic. So when the Caucasians would hit the west coasts of Africa to purchase them and try to communicate with them of who they were, they would mistake their pronunciation of the word “igbo” for “eboe”. The term “Eboe” stuck with our ancestors and this is how the word “Ebony” came about. Since the majority of the first en-slavers were Portuguese, and spoke Latin, they would use the term “Ebony” which meant “black” in their language, to describe the physical appearance of the eboes.
Although the Caucasians did not speak the igbo (hebrew) language, they knew full well that the eboes they were enslaving were the Hebrews of the bible, because the African and Arab slave traders they purchased them from, told them that they were buying “the people of the book”. And since the majority of the Caucasian slave traders were Jewish — white Europeans posing as Jews — their immediate goal became to remove the memory of their true identity from their minds so they would never discover that they were the true jews. Therefore, when the eboes (Hebrews) were shipped to the Carribeans and the America’s as slaves, their slavemasters stripped them of their names, gave them their last names, branded them with hot iron with the initials of their master, shaved their (mostly men) heads bald, and made it illegal for them to learn to read.
It was already bad enough to be taken away from their lands and sent to a new land as slaves, but not knowing how to read or speak the language of their oppressors — English — left the eboes hopeless and fully dependent on their slavemasters for their survival in this strange land that we live in today. Which brings me to the point of how our ancestors went from speaking (hebrew) eboe to ebonics.
The Connection Between Eboes and Ebonics
When our eboe ancestors were shipped over here to America as slaves, they did not speak English. They only spoke eboe (Hebrew) and Aramaic. It’s important to note that English is the native language of the Caucasians from England, which is an offshoot of the Germanic language; and that no black person on Earth ever spoke this language prior to the 15th century (unless they were living in Europe as slaves). Before our ancestors were shipped to North America in 1619, they had already been slaves in South America and the West Indies for over 100 years. And it was during that time, when they were slaves on the islands, that they first begin to hear what the English language sounded like.
The slavemasters who conquered the West Indies (Caribbean Islands) from the native americans were mostly British and spoke English as their native language. Therefore, all of the eboes (hebrews) that were shipped to the West Indies were forced to learn the language of their captors to survive. However, they were only allowed to learn English verbally because it was unlawful for them to learn how to read or write. Therefore, they were never taught proper English, only bits and pieces of the language; just enough to have small conversations with their owners. They understood the language well; they just did not know how to speak it well according to whites.
Without the opportunity to be taught the language properly, the eboes began translating the English language to their eboe (hebrew) form of sentence making; which was to place their adjectives before their nouns just like we talk today. For instance, we will say “I don’t have no money” or “I ain’t got no money” instead of saying (for standard English; “I do not have any money”). We talk with a slang. We take simple one words like no, and say “nah” instead. We take phrases like “hey, how are you doing, and say “what’s happenin my man” or “what you know good” instead. We add soul to the language. And it was our ancestors, who translated the white man’s language in their own hebrew dialect, that created this soulful way of speaking the English that we speak today.
After slavery spread from the West Indies to North America, our ancestors took their slang with them and kept it for centuries. So by the time the other hebrews (eboes) started being shipped directly from West Africa to North America, there were already thousands of other ebonic speaking hebrews living here from West Indies. This is how the new eboes learned the language; from the West Indian eboes. Of corse they didn’t call it ebonics back then, but that is where this form on english that we speak today comes from. It was the Jamacians, Hatians, Barbadians, and other island folk, that were shipped to North America first, that taught the eboes (hebrews) that were shipped from West Africa the language during their days on the plantation.
In regards to the other eboes that were enslaved in South America and Central America, they did not learn to speak english because their slavemaster’s didn’t speak it. The slave masters who controlled these lands were from Spain, France, and Portugual. The Spaniards spoke Spanish and mainly controlled Central America. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The France spoke French and mainly controlled the french republics, which is where the creole people (very light-skinned people with negro features) come from. The slave masters from Portugal spoke Portuguese and controlled mainly South America. This is why all the native black people living in these lands today speak these languages. They are descendants of eboes slaves just like us; they just don’t speak ebonics because English was not their ancestor’s slave master’s native language.
Ebonics is The Hebrew Slang of English
In closing, the term Ebo-nics derived from the way that the eboe (Hebrew) slaves spoke English. Since English was not our original language, on top of the fact that it was against the law for slaves to read; black folks never picked up how to speak English properly. Therefore, we spoke it with slang using our Hebrew dialect, which sounded broken to white folks; so they began calling our way of speaking English, improper. White folks later claimed that our inability to speak proper English was because we were inferior beings that lacked intelligence.
As slavery was coming to an end in the late 19th century, it became legal for the hebrews to learn how to read and write english and some of the wives of the slavemaster taught their slaves proper english. However, this was few in between and after slavery was over, most black folks still could not speak proper english. And the ones who could speak it, had spent so many years of speaking it in hebrew that they preferred to speak it in their language rather than their oppressors. Therefore, they only spoke it around white folks so they could appear as intelligent. This is very similar to how we do today, where we speak proper English on the job around white folks, but speak ebonics everywhere else. By the 20th century, the majority of black folks still were not able (or choose not) to speak english properly. So white folks continued to label us a dumb, stupid, and unintelligent.
To rid ourselves of having to follow after the white man’s pronunciation of the english language just to seem intelligent in society, a group of black scholars came up with the term Ebonics. These scholars, whose names shall remain nameless, were eboes and came up with the term Ebonics because it was the way that the eboes sounded when they spoke english. Now that you know where the term ebonics came from and why we as black people speak ebonics — you should never ever be ashamed of speaking it.
We are hebrews, formerly known as an eboes, and our form of English is the most beautiful, soulful way this language has every been spoken. This is why today, the whole world desires to be and talk like us. Through ebonics, we made the English language popular. So if you don’t know your native hebrew language and only speak ebonics, then at least speak it proudly.
- Hebrewisms of West Africa: From the Nile to Niger with the Jews
- Ibos: Hebrew Exiles From Israel
- Nigeria’s Diverse People’s: A reference Sourcebook
- The Jamaican English Dictionary
- Before The Covenants: Tracing Abraham “The Hebrew” to The Temple at Ezi Kanabo
- Memoirs of the late Captive Hugh Crow of Liverpool
- Ethnography of The African Races (3rd Edition)