White Mourning Clothes: African-American Cultural Traditions and Symbolism

The color that represents mourning varies depending on each culture and the belief of the place. In India and some African countries they use white, based on the same superstition, to hide from the spirits of the deceased, however, today the color white also represents purity of the soul. In South Africa, for example, they wear red during mourning ceremonies, as this color represents the blood of the deceased. Sky blue has been adopted in Syria, as this shade symbolizes harmony and fidelity to the memory of the deceased. In Thailand, a more striking color, violet, is used. This shade represents modesty and penitence, according to the liturgy, as well as symbolizing the transmigration of the soul and spirituality.

Another reason is because white was the most affordable fabric color, and one most people already had. Even when black didn become the color of mourning in the west, children still wore white to funerals as a sign of innocence and purity.

Today, white vestments are more often used in preparation for funerals by the peoples of African and Asian countries, as well as some European countries (Spain, China, Japan, etc.). Traditions have been changed, fashions have changed. And today, where previously white was considered mourning, now black is used to express mourning.

Already in ancient times it was customary to signal mourning with special clothing and its color. At the latest, since the 19th century, the cultures of Central Europe and North America made sure that the color of clothing was black or at least very dark, because black, among other things, symbolizes death in the Western world. In other countries and other times other colors of mourning came and still exist, for example, in Europe in the past white was used along with black . In Asia and in Buddhist countries, among others, white is still the color of mourning. in Ancient Egypt, yellow was considered a sign of mourning. In Africa there is usually no typical mourning garment.

African American Culture: A Rich Tapestry of History and Heritage

African-American culture is a vibrant and diverse tapestry woven with threads of resilience, creativity, and the indomitable spirit of a people. From the depths of slavery to the heights of artistic expression, the African-American journey has left an indelible mark on the history of the United States. In this article, we delve into the rich and diverse tapestry of African-American culture, exploring its historical roots, influential figures, artistic expressions, and enduring contributions that have shaped the nation.

The Legacy of African Roots

African-American culture traces its roots to the diverse ethnic groups and civilizations of Africa. Through the transatlantic slave trade, these ancestral traditions, customs, languages, and music were transplanted to American soil, forming the foundation of the evolving African-American culture.

The Power of Resilience

The history of African Americans is a testament to remarkable resilience in the face of immense adversity. From the era of slavery to the civil rights movement, African Americans have overcome systemic oppression and fought for justice, equality and civil rights, paving the way for social progress and shaping the nation’s history.

Influential figures

African-American culture has been enriched by the contributions of visionary leaders, activists, and intellectuals. From abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass to civil rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, these individuals have left an indelible mark on American history, challenging the status quo and inspiring generations to come.

Artistic Expressions

African-American culture has flourished through various artistic expressions, becoming a source of creativity and innovation. From literature, with luminaries such as Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, to the visual arts, exemplified by Jacob Lawrence and Kara Walker, African-American artists have used their craft to explore identity, social issues, and the African-American experience.

Music and Dance

The contributions of African Americans to the world of music are immeasurable. From slavery-era spirituals to blues, jazz, gospel, soul, R&B and hip-hop, African-American musicians have shaped the landscape of American music, influencing and inspiring artists worldwide. Likewise, dance forms such as tap, jazz and breakdancing have become iconic representations of African-American culture.

Here are some highly acclaimed books and documentaries that delve deeper into African-American culture.


  • “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois: A seminal work that explores the social, cultural, and political issues facing African Americans in the early 20th century.
  • “Beloved” by Toni Morrison: A powerful novel that explores the haunting legacy of slavery and its impact on African-American identity.
  • “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson: An epic narrative that chronicles the Great Migration, capturing the experiences of African Americans who left the South for better opportunities in the North and West.
  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A personal and poignant letter to the author’s son that examines the realities of being black in America and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander: A thought-provoking book that explores the racial disparities within the American criminal justice system and its impact on African-American communities.


  • “Eyes on the Prize” (1987): A landmark documentary series chronicling the civil rights movement, from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • “13th” (2016): Directed by Ava DuVernay, this documentary examines the history of racial inequality in the United States and the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on African Americans.
  • “I Am Not Your Negro” (2016): Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, this documentary reflects on the history of racism in America through Baldwin’s powerful words and archival footage.
  • “Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2011): A compilation of never-before-seen footage capturing the rise of the Black Power movement and its impact on African-American communities.
  • “Hidden Figures” (2016): This film tells the inspiring true story of the African-American female mathematicians who played critical roles at NASA during the Space Race, highlighting their contributions and the obstacles they faced.


African-American culture is a testament to the resilience, creativity, and indomitable spirit of a people who have triumphed over centuries of adversity. From the roots of African heritage to the struggles against slavery, segregation, and systemic racism, African Americans have forged a path of progress that has left an indelible mark on American society and beyond.

Through art, music, literature, and activism, African-American culture has enriched the world with its powerful expressions of identity, justice, and hope. From the spirituals and blues that emerged from the depths of slavery to the vibrant rhythms of jazz, gospel, soul, and hip-hop, African-American music has shaped the global cultural landscape, inspiring generations and transcending boundaries.

The literature and intellectual thought of African-American writers have challenged societal norms, provided poignant insights into the black experience, and paved the way for social change. From the works of Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes to the powerful narratives of Maya Angelou and Ta-Nehisi Coates, these voices have amplified the struggles, dreams, and aspirations of African Americans, fostering understanding and empathy.

African-American culture is also deeply rooted in culinary traditions that blend African, European, and Native American influences. From soul food to Gullah Geechee cuisine, African-American chefs and home cooks have created flavorful dishes that celebrate heritage, community, and the joy of gathering around the table.

In addition, the African-American community has produced visionary leaders, activists and athletes who have broken barriers and fought for justice, equality and civil rights. From Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. to contemporary figures like Barack Obama and Serena Williams, these individuals have inspired generations with their courage, determination and unwavering commitment to making a difference.

Celebrating African-American culture means recognizing the profound contributions and resilience of a community that has transformed the nation’s history, culture, and social fabric. It requires acknowledging the ongoing struggle against racism and inequality and actively working toward a more just and inclusive society.

By embracing and honoring African American culture, we embrace the beauty of diversity, the power of unity, and the importance of equality for all. It is a celebration of the human spirit and a reminder of the incredible legacy that African Americans have left and continue to shape for future generations.


Why is white the Colour of mourning?

Depending on the culture, colors are perceived differently and have different meanings. What many cultures have in common, however: The color of mourning and death is white.

In many Asian countries, white stands for death, and this color is also used for mourning in Buddhism and Hinduism. In ancient Europe, white was also considered the color of mourning for a long time, but was replaced by black, which has since become common, when wedding dresses changed their color from black to white.

The problem with white wedding attire was the difficulty in keeping it clean. Wedding gowns used to be made of black fabric and became an everyday dress after the wedding. By the way, Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland (1819-1901) was the first white bride, before that a wedding dress could be any color.

Colorful wedding dresses are found less often, but the color purple is still considered a mourning color by European royal families today. White in our culture also stands for innocence, cleanliness, peace and youth.

White is meant to signify purity and rebirth and is a popular colour of mourning for many East Asia countries. It also has strong connections to Europe as well. Starting in France in the 16th century, white was worn by bereaved children and unmarried women.

When did the color of mourning change from white to black?

Since the 1870s, mourning practices for some cultures, even those who have emigrated to the United States, are to wear black for at least two years, though lifelong black for widows remains in some parts of Europe.

Why do Africans wear white to a funeral?

White – purity and rebirth

In many African cultures, the color white is associated with death and mourning. Therefore, it is common for people to wear white clothing to funerals as a sign of respect for the deceased and their grieving family. The practice of wearing white to funerals in Africa has both cultural and historical roots.

One reason why white is worn at funerals is that it is believed to symbolize purity, peace, and the transition of the deceased from this life to the afterlife. It is seen as a sign of respect to dress in a color that represents the peaceful transition of the deceased to the next world. White is also believed to signify the hope and renewal that comes after a period of mourning.

Another reason why white is worn at funerals in Africa is that it is often associated with the cultural and religious traditions of the deceased. For example, in many African religions, white is a sacred color that is worn during important ceremonies and rituals, including funerals. Wearing white to a funeral may be seen as a way to honor the deceased’s religious beliefs and cultural traditions.

In some African cultures, the wearing of white at funerals is also a symbol of unity and solidarity with the grieving family. It is a way of showing support and respect to the family of the deceased during a difficult time.

In summary, the practice of wearing white to a funeral in Africa has cultural and historical roots. It is a way of showing respect for the deceased, their family, and their cultural and religious traditions. White is seen as a symbol of purity, peace, hope, and renewal, which are all important aspects of mourning and grieving in African cultures.

Why is white worn at funerals?

White is a color of mourning across the globe

Buddhists wear white to funerals as a symbol of mourning, and respect to the deceased person. Believing that the first three days should be a period of positivity, so that the deceased can transition from life to death peacefully, Buddhists prefer to mourn in white.

Who wears white for mourning?

The family of someone who dies wears white mourning, in the hope that their loved ones are reborn again. The idea of white mourning, otherwise known as deuil blanc in French, was formed during the 16th century when white was worn by bereaved children and unmarried women.

What is the meaning of mourning clothes?

mourning clothes in British English

(ˈmɔːnɪŋ kləʊðz ) plural noun. clothes worn as a symbol of grief at a bereavement, esp black clothes.

What cultures wear white to funerals?

White as a Mourning Color

White is the color of mourning in Ethiopia. It is also the mourning color in Buddhism as practiced in India, Cambodia, and areas of Japan. However, white has different meanings as a mourning color in China and India. Both countries and their cultures use white for a color of mourning.

What is the African tradition when someone dies?

Death is recognized in Africa through a rite of passage that prepares the spirit of the deceased to journey on to the next realm. In many African societies, after the body is buried, the family will have a second, more elaborate funeral. This second funeral takes place some forty days after the first burial.

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