The Historical Progression of African American Essay
Thesis: In Unit One, life for African Americans was transformed by Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation. The social/cultural issue they faced was without economic dependence, effective freedom would never be had. In response to that issue they chose to gain literacy, build black churches, and remain working for white land owners. The outcome of that was the establishment of black churches controlled by freed staves, blacks were trained to be teachers, and sharecropping agreements were made between white land owners and African Americans.
In Unit Two, life for African Americans was plagued by violence and intimidation. The political issue they faced was reform for the support of white supremacy. In response to that issue they chose to protest against segregation, discrimination, and disfranchisement. The outcome was the establishment of the organization National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which rallied for the equal rights and privileges of African Americans. In Unit Three, life for African Americans was leaning toward financial independence.
The economic issue they faced was securing better paying jobs. In response to this issue they sought employment in the railroad and automobile industries. The outcome was the black owned businesses, Pullman porters, and growth in the entertainment industry by way of the Harlem Renaissance. In Unit Four, African Americans became influential in the television and film industry. The literary issue that they faced was unbiased portrayal of their culture. In response to that issue African Americans became freelance writers and photographers.
The outcome was the showcase of the talented African American writers and photographers who achieved rose above the achievements of their peers. In Unit Five, the life of African Americans was ridiculed by the increase in teenage pregnancies. The religious issue they faced is abstinence is more spiritually moral than birth control. In response to that issue they choose use the methods that they saw fit to counter act teenage pregnancies. The outcome of that was a decrease in the incidents of teenage pregnancies.
The historical progression of African Americans was accompanied by new found freedom, racism, and struggle for equal rights and opportunities. The Civil War was supposed to be justification of social and political freedom for all American born people. The end of the Civil War bought freedom to enslaved African Americans but the change in social status did not provide much relief for them because they lacked economic dependence. The period from 1865-1876 was the most transforming period in history for African Americans.
Emancipation freed slaves from whippings, the breakup of families, sexual exploitation, and constant confinement. For African Americans freedom meant the right to travel without the permission of their white captors. The south witnessed a massive migration of freedmen as they traveled to reunite families and establish permanent homes. Politically, it became evident that emancipation and equality were not synonymous and that oppression arose in a variety of forms. Political actions influenced an economic situation that was already bleak (Meacham, 2003).
Prominent African American leaders fought the National Republican Party to secure rights promised by the Equal Rights Amendments and to extend those rights into material independence for the freed people. However this would be difficult because of the numbers of newly freed slaves who were largely uneducated, highly migratory while searching for family or employment, and largely disorganized by centuries of oppression (Meacham, 2003). After the Civil War, the newly freed southern blacks developed many methods to obtain the freedom and equality that they had expected from emancipation. One such effort was the Exoduster movement.
The Exoduster movement was an attempt by Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a former slave and others to encourage migration of African Americans from the old south to Kansas. Singleton worked towards this goal within the black community in a variety of ways and developed support in the dominant society’s institutions. Singleton saw the need to improve the material status of freedmen. In 1880, he told the Senate, “My people want land – we need land for our children – and our disadvantages – that caused my heart to grieve and sorrow; pity for my race, sir, that was coming down, instead of going up – that caused me to go to work for them.
” Because of the freedmen history of agricultural labor, land seemed the most expedient need for their economic development (Meacham, 2003). Blacks remaining in the South after the war had few choices, so they had to continue to work for white landowners. Although they paid some wages, whites wished to continue the old system of labor consisting of close supervision, gang labor, and physical punishment. African Americans’ refusal to work under these conditions or live in the old slave quarters near the master’s house, afforded them the task of erecting cabins on plantation land located far away from the main house.
Wages were at $5 or $6 a month but in the year 1867 wages increased to $10 a month. Because African Americans farmed were able to farm separate sections of land, a rise in sharecropping developed. African Americans would tend the crops and split them with the white landowner at the end of the planting season (Davidson, Gienapp, & et al, 2008). After the Civil War, education became the main source of release from the mental chains of slavery. During this time there were many who had never experienced basic education due to the constraints of slavery.
However, those who had been exposed to formal as well as informal education established what was called “Sabbath schools” which were operated in churches on Sundays and through the week. Religious denominations such as African Methodist Episcopal, Colored Methodist Episcopal, and Black Baptist helped to educate freedmen because they knew that education was a form of eradicating illiteracy, poverty, and the degradation of slavery. Education was not just a strike against discrimination, but a means of gaining respect and dignity ( Butner, 2005).
The anti-freedom movement progressed and grew stronger. During the period from 1877 to 1920, the situation hardly changed for better. The discrimination of African Americans was ongoing. The 1890’s was one of the lowest points for African Americans. Lynching increased, black voting suffered drastic restrictions, and special facilities were used to segregate whites from blacks. This segregation was represented by signs painted with the words “For Whites Only. ” African Americans from all walks of life began to fight back against such discriminations.
Booker T. Washington tried to influence blacks to accept segregation but W. E. B. Du Bois believed that intellectual growth would be damaged if they settled for vocational training. Du Bois, not accepting of the discriminatory caste system structured by whites, also believe that blacks could achieve a better future if they fought politics to gain suffrage and equal rights. As a result of protest against segregation, disfranchisement, and discrimination; the Niagra Movement was formed in 1905.
This movement sought political and economic equality for colored people. However, in 1909 a coalition of black and white reformers came together and changed the movement into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which challenged the legality of the Jim-Crow system of bigotry and segregation (Davidson, Gienapp, & et al, 2008). Black professionals identified the Achilles’ heel of white supremacy. Segregation provided blacks the chance, indeed, the imperative, to develop a range of distinct institutions that they controlled.
Maneuvering through their organizations and institutions, they exploited that fundamental weakness in the “separate but equal” system permitted by the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. For all their violence, lynching, prejudice, and hatred, white supremacists could not exterminate black people. The white supremacists’ major goal, after all, was to maintain an exploitable labor force that would remain in a inferior place (Hine, 2003). However, in 1921-1945, the situation started to improve and the civil right movement of African Americans had started to grow stronger.
The 1920s were the period known as the Harlem Renaissance. As a result of the Great Migration of African Americans from South to North, their number of blacks in Northern states increased steadily. They had more opportunity to exercise their rights because oppression in the North was not as severe as in the South. The cultural movement, known as the Harlem Renaissance, spread nationwide and became a powerful movement which proved that African American communities had the power and ability to achieve success in the US (Tolnay, 2003).
Since the time of Emancipation in the 1860s, economic circumstance handicapped Baltimore’s African-Americans. They understood that advances in economic opportunities were crucial to other gains in social access and civil rights. During the 1930s workplaces across Baltimore begin to yield such access and opportunity. Increased access and opportunities came in a wide array of industries. The strength behind the change rested on the expanding black population. Ariving by bus, train, and by car, African Americans came to Baltimore in search of higher wages and to escape from the “hedged-in” experience of the deeper South.
They came in search of greater job variety and greater political freedom. By the mid-1940s, Baltimore-bound blacks averaged fifty people each day and as many as 300 per week. Drawn to Baltimore for the chance at something better, they more than doubled the city’s African-American population in the forty years following 1910. Union goals and civil rights aims largely paralleled each other. Amid the talk of labor reform, a “rights consciousness” developed among blacks, supplying working-class militancy with a powerful, moral foundation.
War-time protests, such of the 1942 “March On Annapolis,” also emphasized the need for opportunities. For example, when white workers walked off their jobs at Western Electric in 1943, in protest of the absence of worksite segregation, in spite of racial tensions many blacks progressed economically and occupationally. Beyond industrial work, blacks struggled through the 1940s. All of the 800 employees in the city’s post worked as custodians or mail handlers. The municipal government as well as many other city departments barred African-Americans from employment.
By the early 1950s, most municipal entities dropped their color bar, including the Baltimore City Fire Department, which appointed ten black firelighters in 1953. In the private sector, several important companies offered semi-skilled positions to blacks for the first time, including the Yellow Cab Company, which opened driver opportunities in 1951(Terry, 2004). In the post-World War II period, from 1946 to 1974, African Americans became major contributors in the television and film industry. African American actors and actresses were forced to accept demeaning roles or have no roles.
However in spite of these demeaning portrayals, African Americans starved to see folks who looked like themselves in films and on television. During the 1970s, several African American families were introduced on American television with series such as The Jeffersons (George and Louise) and Good Times (James and Florida Evans). Both shows were spin-offs of Norman Lear programs: The Jeffersons hailed from All in the Family and Good Times from Maude. Two important components regarding these programs addressed are their overall societal harm and/or good and the different way, in which blacks and whites processed the programs’ contents.
The widely popular Cosby Show arrived in the 1980s, providing a stark contrast to the ghetto based comedies of the 1970s (Mastin, 2006). In 1964, Sidney Poiter’s acting talent and skill earned him an Oscar, making him the first African American male to win this prestigious honor. Finally, teenage pregnancy has plagued the African American community for many years. The high rate of adolescent pregnancy among African-American adolescents and damaging consequences of premature parenting make it imperative that strategies be developed to address these problems.
This oversight is tragic given that an early adolescent pregnancy often predicts the beginning of a rapid succession of unwanted births and that such repeat pregnancies have adverse consequences for the infant’s health as well as for the mother’s developmental, educational, and occupational well-being (Okwumabau, Okwumabau, & Elliott, 1998) The period from 1976-present, several attempts have been made throughout the African-American community to provide programs and services to prevent this problem.
However, some scholars and practitioners argue that such prevention programs and services are doomed to failure when African-American communities lack the ability to recognize or build on the cultural integrity of that community. The continued high rate of adolescent pregnancy among African-Americans, despite extensive intervention and prevention efforts, brings to the forefront the issue of cultural consistency as a key ingredient in providing prevention programs (Okwumabau, Okwumabau, & Elliott, 1998).
The “Let the Circle Be Unbroken: Rites of Passage” program is a translation of the theoretical underpinnings of an Afrocentric conceptual model into a prevention program. It influences adaptation of socialization processes observed in African cultures, which acknowledge that it is necessary to assist adolescents in the transition or passage from childhood into adulthood. “Rites of passage” is a cultural experience which requires that ideology, education, training, and culture be taught prior to an activity or celebration marking the successful transition from one stage of development (adolescence) to another (adulthood).
For example, young people in many African societies are involved in initiation and training experiences that can extend from a few days or weeks to several years. More often than not, the training is conducted by elders in the society and includes a period of total separation from one’s family and community during which the young person lives alone or together (communally) with others who are also in training. The young person’s return from the separation-back to her family or community-signifies the successful completion of a developmental process and the earning of the respect of the community for having done so.
This is the time that new responsibilities and privileges are given to the youth The “Rites of Passage” program began in 1991 as a pilot project of the Memphis City Schools Adolescent Parenting Program. It initially targeted pregnant and parenting adolescents and was offered as an after-school program at the Comprehensive Pupil Services Educational Center (CPSEC), home to the system’s special program for pregnant and parenting students.
The subjects that are covered in the “Rites of Passage” program are: Knowing Africa increases awareness of global Africa, her geography, people, culture, beliefs, community, and family. Knowing Self and Others introduces participants, adult facilitators, leaders, and elders to the “Rites of Passage” program as a means of socializing youth for adult roles and responsibilities. Family History encourages appreciation of the African-American family, including its role and function from a cultural and historical perspective.
The History of African People increases basic understanding of the history and accomplishments of people of African descent. Family Life Education increases knowledge and awareness about family life matters, including human sexuality and how one’s sexuality relates to responsibility, values, and respect for self and others. Spirituality: The Journey Within increases understanding and awareness of the importance of spirituality to well being.
Taking Care of Self and Etiquette promotes understanding of the importance of total wellness, including physical, emotional, and spiritual well being and enhances understanding of socially acceptable (appropriate and inappropriate) behaviors. Housekeeping and Finances increases understanding of the overall management of a household, including financial planning, money management, and homemaker skills (cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, sewing, and mending).
Values Clarification and Goal Setting develops awareness of the traditional value system that guided African people, and explores and begins to clarify individual values and encourages behavior, including life goals, that is consistent with values Conflict Resolution and Violence Prevention increases awareness and understanding of violence, including the kinds of violence that are destroying AfricanAmerican communities and people as well as the cause and consequences of violence.
It also illustrates that violence is preventable and that there are alternatives to violence. Creativity increases basic understanding of the contribution of people of African descent to the creative arts as well as knowledge and appreciation of the creative arts, particularly those related to the history and culture of African people. X Life Management: Time, School, Work, and Leisure develops skills to appropriately manage one’s life in regard to time spent at school, work, and at leisure.
HIV/AIDS and Other Life-Threatening Conditions increases knowledge and awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and other health conditions (high blood pressure, homicide) that threaten the longevity of people of African descent. Communication increases awareness of the importance of communication skills. Assertiveness and Leadership increases awareness of the qualities of leadership, including those qualities shown by famous and/or high profile African-Americans, as well as the importance of assertiveness and leadership to one’s growth and development.
Career Development exposes participants to a variety of career options and the requirements for each career (Okwumabau, Okwumabau, & Elliott, 1998). The “Let the Circle Be Unbroken: Rites of Passage” program helped to decrease the incidents of teenage pregnancy among African American teenagers by providing them with knowledge of ancestrial heritage, self, family values, spirituality, and personal skills that influence them to make effective decision about birth control and sexuality which will not hinder them from succeeding in life due to teenage parenthood.
Conclusion Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in Unit One subjected African Americans to a life where economic dependence was vital in securing true freedom. The assistance of black churches enabled them recognize the importance of education in developing their own communities, securing employment, and gaining respect of white land owners. Although violence and intimidation was a part of the political reform of the Democrats in support of white supremacy, African Americans remained steadfast.
Protests of social injustices such as segregation, discrimination, and disfranchisement, influenced the formation of the organization National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) defenders of the equal rights and privileges of African Americans. African Americans’ achievement of financial independence in Unit Three was dependent on securing better paying jobs. The migration from South to North and the Harlem Renaissance afforded them the opportunity of employment as factory workers, postal workers and government employees.
The unbiased portrayal of African Americans in television and film in Unit Four encouraged the creation of sitcoms and movies that presented the progression of blacks from demeaning roles to award winning roles that showcased their talents as award winning writers, photographers, actors, and actresses. The development of prevention programs in Unit Five, helped to decreased the incidents of teenage pregnancy by increasing community awareness. References Butner, B. (2005). The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Education of African Americans After the Civil War.
Christian Higher Education, 4(4), 265-276. Retrieved July 20, 2009 from http://search. ebscohost. com. Davidson, J. W. , Gienapp, W. E. , et al. (2008). Nation of nations: a narrative history of the American Republic (6th ed. , Vol. 2). Boston: McGraw Hill. Hayes, J. (2009). Political-Cultural Exodus: Movement of the People! Black History Bulletin, 72(1), 7-13. Retrieved July 14, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1708145821). Hine, D. C. (2003). Black professionals and race consciousness: Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, 1890-1950. The Journal of American History, 89(4), 1279-1294.
Retrieved July 20, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 322744531). Mastin, T. (2006). Color Television: Fifty Years of African American and Latino Images on Prime Time Television/Representing “Race” Racisms, Ethnicities and Media. Review of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 61(2), 218-222. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1124893681). Meacham, M. (2003). The Exoduster Movement. Western Journal of Black Studies, 27(2), 108-117. Retrieved July 20, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 828030721). Okwumabua, T. M. , Okwumabua, J.
O., Elliott, V. (1998). “Let the circle be unbroken” helps African-Americans prevent teen pregnancy. SIECUS Report, 26(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 26859760). Terry, D. (2004). Dismantling Jim Crow: Challenges to Racial Segregation, 1935 – 1955. Black History Bulletin, 67(1-4), 14-17B. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1379490521). Tolnay, S. (2003, August). THE AFRICAN AMERICAN GREAT MIGRATION and BEYOND. Annual Review of Sociology, 29(1), 209-232. Retrieved July 21, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
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