This chapter describes the historical foundations of African American English. It explains some discourse features and discusses some of the grammatical features of African American English. Within the academic discipline of linguistics, research on African American English, like research on first language acquisition of English, is abundant and of a staggeringly high quality. The exploitation and abuse of people of African origin is well documented in historical and literary sources. While these incredible human rights violations are not detailed, they deserve mention not only because they are historical fact, but because of the influence they had on the genesis of African American English. Upon arrival in the Americas, there was no opportunity to resume speaking the native African language. Not only that, but for most people of African descent, the input from English was limited to specific domains and registers, relating to everyday work and livelihood.