The historical progression of African Americans, as covered in the course, is meticulous and the beauty of the reading is that the writers weave all the elements together which ultimately becomes a window of the African-American experience in the time of the history of United States. There are events that shook the historical progression of African Americans and even affected the common blacks. This also mirrors the social effects of these violent events which took place at the social and cultural context of the population. From every aspect the historical analysis the compilation is one the most faithful documentations of the African-American psyche and socio-cultural life that depicts the basic nature of promise made to the population by great leaders that is yet to be fulfilled.
Unit One (1865-1876)
In Unit One (1865-1876) life for African Americans was promising but not yielding enough. Slavery was abolished but the human rights were not in place. Abraham Lincoln’s entire life symbolizes the hunt for liberty. He hailed from the Civil War era when a severe white retort against blacks was being observed in the society. He as the President of US took a firm stand against racial bigotry, escalating segregation, lynching, and the habitually presumed conviction that Afro-American blacks were below human standards. To a great extent of the political clash during the 1850s focused on the spreading out of slavery into the lately created territories. All of the prearranged territories were probable to turn into free-soil states, which pushed the Southern faction toward secession. Both the North and South understood that if slavery could not spread it would eventually lead to its extinction.
In response to that issue they chose to respond to the call of freedom. There are several books that are available and that provide the required historical voice for one who is interested to know hoe America has become the complex and multi-cultural place that it is today. To do justice to the major themes of class, race, culture and gender issues in America till date the Civil war as an important landmark and it touches upon an engaging variety of topics including development towards modern age America and the African Americans were the main cause of it (Jones et al, 2002).
One Social/cultural issue they faced was new life after slavery. Southern states were in favor slavery and the ideology in the north was contrary. This was the vital fact of the war. After the war they were free from slavery but there were no other rights. There were no voting rights or human rights and this was the time the population was just feeling relieved after years of toil.
The outcome was freedom with price. They were often targeted by white groups who believed in white supremacy. There was also the lack of employment and education. In today’s context this was not a very encouraging time but from the point of view of people gaining freedom, it was the adjustment of a new life.
Unit Two (1877-1920)
In Unit Two (1877-1920), life for African Americans was the life of Post World War I America and the action of the African Americans is basically derived from the events that happened as the results of the catastrophic events that took place at the turn of the century. “The Great Migration” is one of the most prominent themes of the era. During the great Migration millions of African-American people, who lived in the South of the country and worked in the farms as slaves, went to the north of the country to the cities to find work in the mills and factories. Several families started from Virginia and they slowly moved to Pennsylvania and ultimately settled in Michigan.
One political issue they faced was the rights of earning. Many of the immigrating Black people were enlisted in the armed forces. This can be looked as one of the acts of the deliberate acts by the black people to improve their social status in the American society. But they were subjected to racial discriminations in the armed forces. They always hoped that after the end of the World War I the scenario would be changed and they could have a life of peace and respect inside America. They also hoped for much brighter socio-economical life after the end of the World War I (Hawkins, 2005).
In response to those issues they chose to accept the country. Actually the war was a chance to show to the White rulers and decision makers of the United States of America that the Black people is also one of the most important parts of the country and they can fight for the ultimate development of the country. But that did not happened in this case. The racist attacks continued and several black soldiers were lynched by the white soldiers. The summer of 1919 was one of the highlights in the history of the interracial clashes in the history of United States of America. The Black people at that time determined to protect them and took up arms. There were reports of clashes of Black and Whites throughout the Country. The seven Days, depicted in the novel was an extremist outfit of the Blacks and there were a number of members of this organization who were former soldiers and later resented to arms to get their demands. The Blacks fought back against racism by increasing their levels of activism (Wineburg, 2008).
The outcome of that was positive for the time being. There were two types of immigrants from the South. Some of them immigrated early and now, during the course of the time we find they were quite well settled in their lives. On the other hand, there were families of the relatively new settlers who were looking for regular ways of earning money and even sometimes had violent ways of earning livelihood (Leventhal, 2005).
Unit Three (1921-1945)
In Unit Three (1921-1945) life for African Americans was gradually coming to terms with the new settlements and livelihood. It was soon found that the abundance of automobiles, due to industrial boom, enabled the white communities to move out of the proper city and reside at the suburbs leaving the population of African-American origin to the older section of the cities making them live nearby to the downtown areas. Thus the cities became a flourishing prospect for the population of African-American origin and as a result businesses, organizations and buildings of black origin became more visible within the cities and the African-Americans started to incorporate themselves within the main stream of the American culture with a distinct identity of their own (Wineburg, 2008).
One political issue they faced was lack of human rights promised to them during the First World War when an open policy of army recruitment gave beliefs to the African American population of a brighter era. These policies, if sustained, would empower all the cultures to practice their individual rituals without permission from the authority and should feel free to express themselves regarding their own identity in terms of dress codes and etiquette. It can well be stated that racism of any for is strictly avoidable and thus it becomes more important to celebrate the unification diversity in the US as it stands for the long termed success as a country. This is evident that when all the diverse races and religions are juxtaposed into the sense of a single nation with having to change their own individual way of life and likes it would only be beneficial for the country itself as each individual would feel responsible for the country. In reality, it was not used (Leventhal, 2005).
In response to those issues they chose to merge to the level of citizenship that is ascribed to the African-American population that was extremely low. The underemployment results in low payment such as 75c an hour leading to low income and dismal situation in life that leads to low level of the citizenship in context of standard and facilities. There were several complaints regarding the issue but the authorities are yet to take any positive action making the African-American population cocooned in a subculture that is detrimental to citizenship and this leads to anti-social activities like riots (Tusa, 2001).
The outcome of that was the early development of civil rights movement. The early growth of this movement changed the life of many African American citizens living both in Mississippi and other parts of the nation. During this era, the state of Mississippi was the poorest state in the nation. The majority of the population of Mississippi consisted of non European decent and living below the poverty line. After, the voting law was pasted some of the counties in Mississippi did not have a single African American register voter (Pitre, 2002).
Unit Four (1946-1976)
In Unit Four, (1946-1976), life for African Americans was about open movement. One of the most important movements for the African-American people in United States in America is the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968). It was far more important than civil rights; it was about all the fundamental issues like freedom and respect, and all the other socio-economical aspects. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks are all the great leaders of the movement (Steele, 1999).
One political issue they faced was about civil rights. The years of oppression by the White people has really pushed the black society to an end where there is no chance to return. And they started to ensure that their voices must be heard in the time and so their collective efforts are nothing but the culmination of the civil rights movement in America (Wineburg, 2008).
In response to those issues they chose to challenge the oppressors. The historical experiences of the African-American people will always be really unique. They were entitled to vote and they ultimately got the respect they had always been looking for. With their newly found voting rights they slowly started to gain legal and political equity. The graduation of the black students from the secondary school just grew tripled and the rate of poverty was cut in half. A new middle class evolved at that time, called the black middle class. The emergence of the African-Americans in true sense started with this civil rights movement (Payne, 2007).
The outcome of that was of turmoil. The Blacks continued with their direct action plans by holding freedom rides, sit-ins and bus boycotts through non-violent actions and mass enlistments. They had faced enough harassment from the local authorities and as a result became outlaws. The churches, which were the focal point of the communities, and other small organizations, gathered up thousands of volunteers to take part in nationwide events. These actions were more rapid and direct in bringing about changes than the court cases. They did not see any development in the quality of their living standards. They did not believe in the explanations of the Whites that it takes time to build a proper life and thought that they were simply misleading. Thus, they fought back with the Black riots of the 1960’s (Leventhal, 2005). There were some major riots in 1963 and 1964 in Cambridge, where the National Guards had to intervene to bring back peace. Riots also took place in Watts, Los Angeles, which lasted for almost 6 days causing a number of causalities and damage of property. Other cities of America were also faced with the problem of riots. The cities were turned into major battlefields and the Black mobs looted and burned everything in its way. This continued until 1968 and claimed a huge number of human lives and millions in property damages. Thus, the author indicates that the movement that was peaceful approach was soon converted into occasional acts of violence and the chief guilty party was the authority itself (Steele, 1999).
Unit Five (1976-Present)
In Unit Five (1976-Present), life for African Americans was better but there were traces of racism at parts. It should be stated that the presence of racism is well documented in many societal domains “including workplace, school, health care, and housing” (Payne, 2007). It is very peculiar to consider racism is an ideology where humans are separated into various groups in the belief that some people are superior because they belong to a particular ethnic or national group (Leventhal, 2005).
One political issue they faced was racism based on social elements that are the results if negative judgments. In a more recent time, such notions have been echoed by civil right leaders in decrying how America has lost its way by disregarding the rights of a minority or even deliberating excluding some from the process. Future generations are but an extension of those citizens who originally formed a state years before out of one unanimous voice. If the rights of future generations are either ignored or deliberately denied, the state is ultimately weakened. This says that while unanimity was important in founding the state, such a principle is no longer necessary or important in continuing it. Whether it is the right of women to vote, people of color to co-exist without various forms of discrimination, or most recently, civil marriage rights of gay and lesbian citizens, there are many examples to the contrary (Payne, 2007).
In response to those issues they chose not to drift away from the reasons the state was created, when all people came together in unanimity. However, this unanimity does not last forever. It is all together likely that the state of nature would require such; that eventually the self-interest of man would splinter the consensus that had been made in a previous generation. What is important today may not be important tomorrow. As time passes, issues of the past lose a prominent spot in the thoughts of man, replaced instead by the current social and economic pressures. It is for this reason that a political formation cannot be so rigid as to ignore changing values of its citizenry (Leventhal, 2005).
The outcome of all these elements is satisfying. Now, America has a black president and many African-Americans are the integral parts of the development of this country. Actually according to many social commentators, Obama’s victory is the pinnacle of the long process of the demand for equality for the black people and it is by the way has happened only for the American Civil Rights movement.
In the course of the study, we experience in the conditions of the black people in America, and the course records countless acts of racism, hate, and intolerance over the innocent black people. The course cries out loud on one issue that though it has been ages since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, still America is a broken and unjust society, where still the African-Americans are nothing more than slaves. Though there are many developments, they are still far away to reach the socio-political freedom that once the great leaders promised.
- Hawkins, D. (2005). Inequality, Culture, and Interpersonal Violence. Health Affairs 80(3), 117-125.
- Jones, J., Wood, P., May, E., Borstelmann, T., and Ruiz, V. (2002). Created Equal. Vol. 1. NY: Longman.
- Leventhal, W. (2005). The Scope of Freedom: the Leadership of Hosea Williams with Dr. King’s Summer 65 Student Volunteers. Montgomery: Challenge Publishing.
- Payne, C. (2007). I’ve got the light of freedom: the organizing tradition and the Mississippi freedom struggle. Ed: 2. University of California Press
- Pitre, A. (2002). The Controversy Around Black History. Western Journal of Black Studies 26(3), 149-154.
- Steele, S. (1999). A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America. New York: Harper Perennial
- Tusa, B. (2001). Faces of Freedom Summer. Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press.
- Wineburg, S. (2008). Famous Americans: The Changing Pantheon of American Heroes. Journal of American History 94(3), 1186–1202.