This research paper will discuss the African American social standing in America throughout history. It will discuss the highs and lows and the pros an cons of the progression and also the different periods that African Americans lived through since they were brought to America. The progression of African Americans in America began with a practice called slavery. Slavery is the state of a person who is the chattel of another. It began in 1441 when Portuguese men kidnapped 12 black Africans from Cabo Blanco and moved them to Portugal. This opened the door to slavery in the Americas.
A British statesman stated that “Slavery is a weed that grows on every soil.” The first African Americans slaves in America were brought to Jamestown, Virginia as servants and or slaves in August 1619. In order for slavery to work Africans had to made to seem inferior, one of the main an most common ways to show this was through religious racism ( Aretha, David pg. 21 ) The practice of slavery was then sent to the south were they were put on plantations.
Plantations consisted of a large mansion like home surrounded by a large farm where slaves planted and harvested crops and performed other jobs which they weren’t paid for. While on the plantation the slaves called the owner Master or Mistress, they provided the slaves with food housing and clothing.( David Brion Davis, World Book online..
. Slavery) While on these plantations many of the slaves faced severe consequence for disobedience. They received consequences for not working hard or fast enough, they would also be used as an example in order to control the others. Their harsh punishment would include branding, whipping, mutilation, chaining and sometimes the harshest punishment of all cold blooded murder.
Slavery was one of the worst periods in American history. During this period of slavery there were few revolts but many runaways. While slavery continued to spread and get more brutal in the South, the North disagreed with the idea of free labor. Their difference fueled the abolitionist movement. The Abolitionist Movement was the first movement that lead to the African Americans’ political and physical freedoms from slavery. “Antislavery activity began in colonial days. During the 1680’s, Quakers in Pennsylvania condemned slavery on moral grounds.
In the late 1700’s, several leaders of the American revolutionary movement, including Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, spoke out against slavery.” (David Herbert Donald, World Book Online Abolitionist Movement). During the start of the movement there were almost no public newspaper that publicized the abolishment of slavery. William Lloyd Garrison, an American journalist and abolitionist who became famous in the 1830 for denouncing slavery, published the first issue of his abolitionist newspaper The Liberator January 1st 1831, which was at that time the first Abolitionist newspaper. The reason William Garrison published the newspaper was because he was tired of the other methods that many abolitionists had tried. Garrison said slavery should be ended immediately. Another front runner during the Abolitionist Movement was Sojourner Truth.
She was an ex-slave and also one of the main figures in the fight for women’s rights and equality. On January 1, 1863, the Abolitionist goals were reached when President Abraham Lincoln the 16th president issued his Emancipation Proclamation. It read that “all persons held as slaves” in rebellious states “are and henceforward shall be free” (McPherson, James M. World Book Online Emancipation Proclamation.
) . Around the same time Congress passed the 25th Amendment into Constitution which therefore abolished slavery. Months later it was ratified.
Following the Emancipation Proclamation, The North (union) and the South (confederate) began a civil war which lasted from 1861 to 1865. The war ended with many of the major cities in the South in ruins and most of the Northern cities left untouched. The Reconstruction period in the U.S followed the Unions victory over the Confederate Army in the civil war . The period was used to rebuild the south and patch-up the relationship between the North and South. Along with rebuilding and patching up relationships, the North sent teachers to the south to educated the African American ex slaves who had became newly members of the society. The teachers taught ex slaves reading, writing an arithmetic.
The Reconstruction Act called for a new Constitution to be established in each state. It also gave Freedmen the right to participate in voting. The 14th Amendment was also passed and ratified during the Reconstruction period. “The 14th Amendment granted full citizenship to all people born or naturalized In the United States of America . Many of the laws passed during this period were set in place to protect the rights of former slaves, such as allowing blacks to vote an giving them many of the same rights as whites and protecting things dear to them such as property and money.
During this period many advancements in society were made by African Americans, such as the Self-Leveling Table created by Charles William Allen , the corn planter check rower by Ralph W. Alexander and the spark plug by Edmond Berger these are only three of the more than 200 inventions/advancements made by African Americans during the reconstruction period. These African Americans, lead professions even when high limitations were placed upon them.
(Aretha, David pg. 61) Advancements like these opened the door and let people know that African Americans were not incompetent but could actually make a difference in the world. Even though laws were set in place many southern whites still did not want to think an ex-slaves as anything close to equals. This lead to much violence and death of both whites and former slaves. “In time, southern whites regained control of their state governments and took away many of the rights that blacks had won during reconstruction.”( Stephen V. Ash, Work book online Reconstruction).
After the Reconstruction period ended and the North soldiers returned back home, which left ex slaves with no form of protection lead to extreme backlash against the African American community by whites. Following the Reconstruction period Jim Crow laws came into effect. Jim Crow laws resulted from the support southern whites and their effort to maintain segregation of blacks. These type of laws plagued the United States during the 19th century. The first type of Jim Crow law was set in place in Tennessee which called for the separation of African-American and white riders on the railway. This practice was soon adopted by other southern states.
The spread of segregation laws through the South was supported by a many Supreme Court decisions.”( Joe R. Freagin, World Book online Segregation) The Separate but Equal Doctrine arose during the period in which Jim Crow laws were on a rise. The Separate but Equal Doctrine stated that African Americans were equal to whites but should be kept separate from whites. The separate but equal doctrine was totally incorrect.
For example Blacks and whites were separated in schools but the white schools had busing an the best books and teachers on the other hand the black schools had run down classrooms and unacceptable books. Blacks and whites were also separated in eateries, the White restaurants had the best locations and best accommodations on the contrary the black restaurants were small and modest. “Most of these Jim Crow laws were declared invalid by several Supreme Court decisions in the 1950’s and 1960’s and by the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968.” ( Alton Hornsby, World Book Online Jim crow)During the 1950’s the Civil Rights Movement took flight along with desegregation. The Civil Rights Movement was just that a movement towards civil rights which were stated to be “The freedoms and rights that a person may have as a member of a community, state, or nation. ” (Bruce Allen Murphy, World Book Online Civil Rights) The first major event of the civil rights movement was the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, which desegregated public schools across the nation.
Schools in the south were very slow in changing their ways and violence usually erupted when black students tried to register. Then, in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. After she was arrested for breaking the law, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, For 382 days, from Dec. 5, 1955, to Dec.
20, 1956 blacks refused to ride Buses and carpooled to destinations. It ended Dec 20, 1956 with the Supreme-Court-ordering desegregation of Montgomery buses. The boycott brought fame to a reverend named Dr. Martin Luther King. During the Civil Rights Movement the most effective way to get things done many believed was through non violence. Non violence was not just a way of acting but a state of mind and doctrine which Martin Luther King Jr.
took from Mahatma Gandhi he stated that with non violence you can move mountains. Some methods they used to get their point across were sit ins, boycotts, marches and public speeches. Although many activist believed in non violence there was another side to the Civil Rights Movement and that was the Black Power Movement. The Black Power Movement was a more radical movement than the Non Violent Movement. Front runners like Malcolm X and other influential faces such as Huey P. Newton and Bud Siegel who together formed the Black Panthers all believed that the white man was the problem and that in order to win equal rights that African Americans needed to start fighting fire with fire and bullets with bullets instead of the more passive ways of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
( Aretha, Chronicles pr. 261-300)In conclusion I believe that the law has provided African Americans with equal rights as whites but I believe that they may still appear not to be equal. In the 21st century I belive and know that there are many laws that seem to make African Americans and white equals but there is still much discrimination in the world. I also believe that the racism is not as bad but still exist, it just isn’t as blatant and in your face as it was in the past.
African Americans still have trouble getting jobs, being accepted into organizations and colleges or university, But I do believe that we have made a 900 degree turn from the time where “Colored” and “White” signs decorated the front of every doorway, restroom and waterfountian in the southern U.S