Secret Language Spoken By Enslaved Black People Gets Revival On TikTok

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The list of things they didn't teach us in school continues to grow. 

Tutnese, or Tut, a secret language created by enslaved African people in the US was largely forgotten, now the language is seeing a resurgence, thanks to TikTok. 

Several videos teaching people how to write and speak Tut have gained traction on the social media platform in recent months. With Google Classroom and other online learning tools, the number of people learning the nearly lost tongue is also on the rise. 

“I just learned AA enslaved people created a language called Tut. I have convinced my family to learn it, and I am incredibly excited to start this journey,” one Twitter user tweeted.

The language has its phonetic roots in English and was created by Black people in the 18th century. In 1995, author Gloria McIlwain published a book on Tut, explaining the language’s centuries-long history, and how to speak it. McIlwain wrote an article in the American Speech Journal describing her personal introduction to the language: 

“My mother told me she had learned TUT Language from her mother, who said it was a method devised by some African slaves in America to teach each other to spell –– therefore, to read –– at a time when reading by slaves was against the law,” the author said.

McIwain’s father described Tut as a “disguised language that could have got him killed thus as a grown man he refused to speak it.”

Renewed excitement around Tut has some wanting the language to remain among African Americans, since its clandestine origins helped enslaved ancestors speak to one another.

While Tut’s rise in popularity online has exposed African Americans to a nearly lost piece of Black history, social media provides little protection over who can learn the language.

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