America is a strong nation with an illustrious history and in the contemporary setting, the country has people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and these people share a common good. However, there is a dark side to the past of the United States of America because this past has been a barrier to the progression of a certain ethnic group found in the country. The people whose progression has been hindered by inhuman activities in the past of the United States of America are African Americans. These people have suffered untold injustices and oppression but through struggle, perseverance, and determination, they have managed to make steady strides towards success and this steady progression has earned them remarkable victories in the past and the present (Franklin, 2005). As the whole of the United States of America improved, various aspects of the lives of Americans of African descent also improved and their socio-cultural and political development opened avenues of overall reforms that have changed the entire history of these people.
The Historical Progression of African American
Since the days of the slave trade, African Americans have fought and struggled to attain equal freedom and rights and these are things that other cultures take for granted. Throughout each unit in this course, there have been specific examples of how African Americans were oppressed and how they have fervently fought to attain their goals. The unit has analyzed issues faced and the resultant outcomes that helped the African American community to meet and even exceed their goals. The historical path of African American people saw them struggle fervently for their constitutional rights and equal opportunities and one of the most significant events in this struggle was the civil war whose purpose was to liberate African Americans who had been enslaved by the dominant white community. However, the real struggle never resulted in consistent improvement of the state of the African Americans and they had to spend more than one hundred years struggling for their rights and equality between the whites and the blacks. They had to spend more than one hundred years trying to achieve the ideals of the American civil war. At the end of the civil war, the Americans felt liberated but this change did not bring any considerable benefits because they still underwent political and economic suppression.
The period between 1865-1876 was the most significant in the history of these people because it marked the rise and the collapse of the dream of liberation due to increased oppression and marginalization. After the civil war, the slaves were freed followed by the ratification of the thirteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States of America. This ratification outlawed slavery in the United States of America while the fourteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States of America granted full citizenship to Americans of African descent. In 1868, the fifteenth amendment gave Americans of African descent the right to vote for the first time in the history of the United States of America. In unit one, therefore, it is evident that the lives of African Americans were transformed by emancipation that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed and one of the issues that African Americans faced was social cultural. Without independence, African Americans would have ultimate freedom and in response to these issues African Americans chose to invest in education and they also started churches for the blacks. The outcome was a proliferation of black churches controlled by the freed slaves while a big portion of the black community undertook pedagogy studies.
In unit two, the progress of African Americans which had been encouraged by Lincoln and his afro friendly policies seemed to stagnate because of various setbacks that plagued their road to emancipation. The progress seemed to be illusory because of constant oppression that these people underwent and the major setback that happened to African Americans during this period was their disenfranchisement. African Americans were denied voting rights and corruption denied them the chance to influence political outcomes in the country. African Americans also faced a problem of quick extinction due to the racial killings and torture that were engendered by a clandestine anti blacks’ movement called the Ku Klux Klan.
Therefore, it is important to note that in unit two, African Americans underwent untold violence and intimidation from their white counterparts. During this period, the major issue they faced was political (Haley, 2000). This political issue was the reforms that were carried out by the white supremacy in the country to revoke the rights that the Africans Americans had been granted by the fourteenth and fifteenth amendment of the constitution of United States of America. In response to this political issue, African Americans decided to protest against this violence, discrimination and denial of their right to vote and the outcome of this response was the establishment of a movement called the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured people, NAACP which agitated for the equal rights of the Africans of American descent though the movement faced very many obstacles in its campaign (Black, 2002).
In unit three (1890-1920) the situation for African Americans did not look any brighter and discrimination and massacres heightened during this time. From 1890-1905 many states especially in the south amended their constitutions to disenfranchise African Americans. African Americans stayed away from voter registration exercises and they also boycotted elections. This means that there were no political representatives from the African American community. Oppression and massacres continued and in the formative years of the first decade of the twentieth century, African Americans started fleeing the hostile southern states and headed towards the north where they though were safer (Braude, 2001).
However, the economic conditions in the north were not as good as in the south. Immigration of well qualified labour force complicated the situations for African Americans because this rendered them redundant in the labour market. Economic opportunities for African Americans dwindled and in response, African Americans formed a civil rights movement known as the Niagara movement which was later followed by other clandestine civil rights movements especially in the south. The founders of the Niagara movement had an anti racism manifesto that agitated for the restoration of full civil liberties for the African Americans and they also campaigned against the oppressive and inhuman practices meted upon African Americans by the dominant white community. Therefore, in unit three, the major problem faced by African Americans was economic. These people were leaning towards financial independence but lack of secure and lucrative jobs hindered their economic dreams. In response to this economic issue African Americans secured jobs in the transport industries especially the rail roads and vehicle industries. The outcome rapid growth of businesses owned by African Americans like the Pullman Porters and the rise of black entertainment industry which started the Harlem Renaissance that spread over into the next unit.
The period between 1921 and 1945 saw improvement of the situation of African Americans and their civil rights movements became even stronger (Franklin, 2001). This unit covers a period that is popularly known as the Harlem renaissance and the movement of African Americans from south to north increased dramatically because there was less oppression and more economic opportunities in the north than in the south. The cultural movement called Harlem renaissance spread all over United States of America and this movement proved that African Americans were talented and had a lot of potential. However, the biggest issue that Africans Americans faced during this period was economic. The economic crisis of the late 1920’s did not spare the African Americans. In response, African Americans started spreading all over the country in search of economic opportunities and the outcome was presence of African Americans in all corners of United States of America. The African Americans contributed significantly to the triumph of the United States of America and its allies in the Second World War (Haley, 2007).
The period between 1945 and 1976 is one of the most significant periods in the history of black Americans because it was marked by intense civil rights activism which changed the lives of African Americans for the better. One of the political problems that the African Americans faced was racial segregation and discrimination especially in schools and public transport systems. In response, these people led by their leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X participated in resistance struggles that aimed at forcing the supreme white community to recognise African Americans as equals and provide them with larger opportunities to exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms. The outcome of this civil action that was led by Martin Luther King was elimination of racial segregation in schools and racial discrimination was formally outlawed. Violence against African Americans decreased markedly though this did not prevent the murder of civil rights movements’ leader, Martin Luther King.
The period after 1976 saw increase representation of African Americans in the political arena of the United States of America (Goldenberg, 1999). The larger opportunities that the civil rights movement fought for enabled African Americans to get elected in more legislative posts. More African Americans got appointed in judicial and executive posts. Before this period, no black person had assumed the position of a governor of any state in the country and Douglas Wilders was the first black American to run a state in the history of this country. Carol Moseley Braun became the first woman of African American descent to be elected to the senate and though African Americans in United States have been enjoying more opportunities than ever before, the situation is still far from perfect and glaring inequalities are evident. The ruling elite in the country is predominantly white who also control the country’s economy as millions of African Americans languish in penury stricken neighbourhoods.
Economic conditions for African Americans have remained stagnant and socioeconomically, this ethnic group has a much lower income than all the other ethnic groups found in United States of America. However, various reforms have been introduced in United States of America to improve the lives of African American people and other minor groups. Anti discriminatory laws that guide employment and housing have been implemented and the social system in modern United States of America has been designed to ensure that equal opportunities are created for all races and ethnicities. The most significant reform that was made in this country was the affirmative action of 1995 and it was meant to control the damages of past oppression and discrimination of minority groups, especially, African Americans. Affirmative action provided for higher privileges in schools and labour sector but unfortunately, it is hard to undo past injustices and the attempt to remove the effects of slavery and inhuman oppression have proved to be an uphill task. However, their historical progression and success has been noticed and these are results of the struggles of African Americans who fought for equal opportunities and rights, giving way to larger avenues for growth and success (Hine et al, 2005). The success of African Americans in United States of America is bound to continue as enrolment of African American students in universities increase steadily.
African Americans have contributed immensely to social cultural and economic development of United States of America. African American blaze the trail in entertainment circles especially in Hollywood and in the music industry. The most successful music artistes in the late years of the twentieth century are of African American descent and one genre of music associated with African Americans in the United States of America is Hip hop. Apart from entertainment, African Americans have also been significantly successful in sports with more than a half of successful sportsmen in United States of America being African Americans. United States of America has for years topped medal tables in Olympics and world championships due to the activity of African Americans (Hine et al, 2000).
There are more African Americans than white Americans involved in popular sports like basketball, tennis and soccer and their activity in sports has uplifted the image of the country. The major issue that Africans Americans have faced during the late years of the twentieth century and the formative years of the 21st century is political. Though representation of African Americans in legislative and political posts has increased considerably, Africans Americans are still under represented. However, the last two decades, African Americans have tried to run for the presidency of United States of America with little success, but the biggest piece of African American history was written when African American of Kenyan descent namely Barrack Obama ran for the presidency of United States of America and emerged victorious in 2008.
African Americans have faced many changes in their history in United States of America and these challenges have not come to and end tough they have significantly reduced. African Americans are still struggling to make the situation perfect but they can sit back and celebrate their achievements so far (Weiner, 2004). Credit also goes to some sections of the white community that have attempted to change the face of united states of America by ensuring that their African American counterparts get more access to opportunities to enjoy their civil and constitutional rights.
Braude, B. (2002). “The Abrahamic Attitudes toward Racism and Slavery. Is Religion Moral?” Journal of History and Social Science, vol. 22.
Black, T.D. (2005). Bridges of Memory; Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration: An Oral History. NY: Oxford University Press.
Franklin, J.H. (2001). From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. Chicago: McGraw-Hill Education.
Goldenberg, D. M. (1999) “The Development of the Idea of Race: Classical Paradigms and Medieval laborations.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition, vol. 5.
Haley, A. (2007). Roots. New York: Vanguard Press.
Hine, D.C. et al. (2002). The African-American Odyssey. N.J : Prentice Hall.
Hine, D.C. et al. (2005). Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Weiner, M.S. (2004). Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste. New York: Random House.