Stolen Culture

America is a thief! It is no secret that culture and history has been stolen from Black communities for centuries; dance, art, music, hair, fashion, linguistics. This has shown itself in the form of misinformation, the lack of crediting the original creators, not acknowledging the history, white people profiting off of Black culture, or erasing the origins of the trend, style, art, etc. All are results of racism and the white centered (white supremacist) narrative that this society writes for itself. It is necessary that we acknowledge, educate ourselves on, and uplift Black voices, stories, art, joy, and culture as a whole.

A non-all-inclusive list of things in society that you may have not known were stolen from Black culture:


Pablo Picasso

      • Picasso gave no credit when he culturally appropriated and stole African art. While he was repainting African artifacts and making profit off of the “style”, Black people faced discrimination, hate, and violence for expressing their culture- they were dehumanized, not called an artist. Picasso profited off of African art styles, evolving into his famous “cubism” pieces that gained recognition, but never credited to his inspiration.


      • Museums often smuggle or steal artifacts without the consent of the culture or country that it belongs to. Many African artifacts such as from Nigeria and Egypt, are shown off for profit of the museum, capitalizing and appropriating Black culture.

Inspired by or Stolen?

      • There is a fine line between drawing inspiration from and stealing another artist's work. Many art styles such as collages, pottery, textiles, and jewelry, have been taken by white people who profit off them while giving no acknowledgement to the history or creators of the art.


    • Living Single and Friends

      • The show Friends was inspired by the show Living Single, a sitcom that was created and aired a year before the popular show Friends. Both shows were produced by Warner Bros. One was melanated, one was not. None of the directors or producers of Friends will admit that they heavily drew inspiration from Living Single, yet they have received more traction, popularity, representation, and profit than the template that Black creatives in media provided.

    • The Oscars

      • Hollywood and the film industry has always been racist, discriminatory, and exclusive of people of color. In 2015 only 14% of the top nominated films featured people of color. After media uproar of the obvious lack of diversity and appreciation for people of color in film and media, there has been an increase Black actors and productions to be nominated. Yet, those that are nominated are often done so to fit a stereotype, role, or stigma that is placed on Black people in America.

      • Read more here:


Chuck Berry and The Beatles

  • Chuck Berry was a legendary musician. Many credit him as being the father of Classic Rock, with his harmonious blends of blues and country twang creating his unique and stunning signature style. Bands like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan have been heavily inspired by his music without crediting him - with The Beatles being one of the most famous bands to do this. The majority of these white musicians gave no acknowledgement to this until years later after they had profited immensely from Berry’s work. Paul McCartney admitted to stealing the riff from The Beatles’ song “I Saw Her Standing There” from Berry’s “I’m Talking About You”, but only years later after the booming success of the song. John Lennon stole a direct lyric from Berry’s song “You Can’t Catch Me” and admitted to being heavily influenced by the song, yet claims it remains completely independent from Chuck Berry. In a statement, he said, “Come Together is me, writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line in, ‘Here comes old flat-top’. It is nothing like the Chuck Berry song, but they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. I could have changed it to ‘Here comes old iron face,’ but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on Earth”.

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Elvis Presley

  • Elvis Presely, known infamously as “The King”, was always inspired by Black musicians and never fairly credited them. He has many iconic songs that earned him massive success, with one of them being “Hound Dog”, released in 1956. But what most people don’t know is that a song with the exact same title, nearly identical lyrics and slightly slower tempo was released by a Black woman named Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornoton three years earlier in 1953. After hearing a cover of the song in a hotel in 1956, he recorded his own version months later. It topped the R&B, Country, and Pop Charts, with the majority of people believing it to be an original song of his as he never indicated its true origin. Thornton stated years later that the song “must have sold two million copies - and I was paid one check for 500 dollars, and never another cent”.

Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin

  • Led Zeppelin has been sued and accused from dozens of different sources for stealing riffs, melodies, lyrics, and beats. Additionally, many of their songs were heavily influenced by songs from other artists and writers who were given no credit. Many people credit the guitar riff included in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” as the greatest guitar riff of all time, but this also could not have been possible without a Black musician named McKinley Morganfield - known professionally as Muddy Waters. Many parts of Led Zeppelin’s song was based off of Muddy Waters’ song “You Need Love”, yet the original writer of the song was not given credit until he sued the band.


    • We already have a whole section on this in the “Culture” page of the “Black History Month” tab. Just to reiterate, dance would be non existent without Black culture.

      • A website compiled a list that barely scratches the surface of the styles of dance from and influenced by Black culture:

Swing dancing, the Lindy Hop, the Charleston, the jitterbug, the flea, the mover, the spin, the buzz, the jazz, the Cab Calloway, tap dancing, the moonwalk, the slide, the skirt, juking, flapping, shagging, jive, boogie woogie, the rock, the mashed potato, the twist, the James Brown, the robot, the squirt, the monkey, the funky chicken, the schoolboy, hand jive, disco, popping, locking, breakdancing, the worm, the windmill, the King Tut, the Vogue, the Bobby Brown, the Michael Jackson, the Tootsie Roll, the Butterfly, the Electric Slide, the Wobble, the Cupid Shuffle, jukking, line dancing, square dancing, krumping, and twerking”


    • Onesimus

      • When the smallpox epidemic hit America in the 1700s, people were confused and fearful of the rapid death counts. In Massachusetts an enslaved man who went by Onesimus, told the slave owner Cotton Mather that he knew how to cure the smallpox epidemic. Mather didn’t trust him, yet Onesimus, using African medicine and practices that were used to prevent smallpox, showed him that he had already undergone the surgery in Africa. The method was similar to live vaccines that are used today. Mather took this information shared by Onesimus and spread it to medical professionals in the colonies. After testing his method on enslaved people, doctors began to give others the same procedure. Death rates decreased exponentially. While Onesimus introduced the idea of live vaccines to America, 80 years later, Edward Jenner was credited for the discovery and creation of the smallpox vaccine. Onesimus was not even given freedom after his contributions, and today, very few know his name.