American History Changes That Have Occurred in Essay
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American history [...] changes that have occurred in African-American history over time between 1865 to the present. African-Americans initially came to this country against their will. They were imported to work as slaves primarily in the Southern United States, and they have evolved to become a force of change and growth in this country. African-Americans have faced numerous challenges throughout their history in this country, and they still face challenges today.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, African-Americans were freed from slavery. However, that did not end their struggle for freedom. In fact, in many ways, it only made their situation worse. Many slaves who were in fairly decent situations were thrust out to fend for themselves, or they became sharecroppers for their former masters, barely making enough money to stay alive. This was the time of "reconstruction" in the South, and it was recovering both politically and economically from the effects of the Civil War, which devastated much of the area. Blacks were free, but they were still the subject of prejudice and hatred. Life for Africans Americans was supposed to be better, but in reality, they simply switched one type of slavery for another. They were still dependent on their former owners for their livelihood, and they were still poor and subjugated. Congress passed laws that allowed them access to schools and voting (Parker, 2010), however, many of the so-called "Black Codes" passed in southern states kept them away from the polls and schools. In response, they settled largely in Black communities and remained separate and unequal from white communities. The outcome of that was to keep them segregated, which most Southerners wanted, and to keep them from really experiencing the rights they has supposedly won after the war. While families were reunited when they gained their freedom, they still faced exceptional challenges to really become free citizens with the same rights of whites in the United States.
1877 through 1920
This was a period of great change for many African-Americans, and not for the better. Some historians refer to it as the "nadir" (Dagbovie, 2006) of Black history, because the lives of African-Americans actually deteriorated during this time. After Reconstruction, many southern states began actively creating and promoting Jim Crow laws after an 1896 Supreme Court decision that said racial segregations was constitutional. That limited the rights of African-Americans throughout the South, and set them back dramatically in their social standing. These unwritten laws made it nearly impossible for them to vote, integrate with whites, and even sit down in the same dining room, and they lasted until the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. During this time, the Ku Klux Klan also developed as a white supremacy organization that actively hunted down Black Americans and lynched them for various infractions. In response to these issues in the South was that huge numbers of southern Blacks moved north, creating a large migration to urban centers like Chicago, Detroit, New York, and others. They went there looking for jobs, but they also went to escape the prejudices they faced in the South.
However, this was also a period of growth for African-Americans in many areas. Booker T. Washington created the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, one of the first all-Black institutes of higher learning, and George Washington Carver became a leading instructor there. His research into the peanut is what he is famous for, but he was a leading agriculturist of his day, and prominent in the fight for African-American rights, although he did advocate meshing African-American society with white society, which many other Blacks did not agree with (Editors, 2010). W.E.B. DuBois also began writing during this time, and he founded the Niagara Society during this time, which challenged the idea of white supremacy and "getting along" in white society (Editors, 2010). It was a time of intellectual and spiritual growth of many Black Americans, but ultimately the outcome was a setback in their status and economic growth. In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded, and W.E.B. DuBois led it for many decades. This was also the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance, which was an artist movement in Harlem, New York that involved everyone from writers, artists, and musicians, to many other artistic endeavors that spilled over to the white community.
This was also the period of World War I, and many African-Americans served during the war, although few actually fought overseas. They served in segregated
units, and most provided support services, such as maintenance or cooking. Many felt they were under utilized in the military, and they protested to the NAACP on their return (Editors, 2008).
The result of this era was mixed. Some African-Americans were coming into prominence and becomes leaders in their communities, while most African-Americans were suffering increased prejudice, hatred, and inability to better themselves. The fight for their rights was beginning in earnest, but it would not come to a favorable outcome until one hundred years after the Civil War.
1921 through 1945
This is a period when the Harlem Renaissance really flourished, and World War II took place, so it is pivotal in the nation's history, and in African-American history, too. This is also the period of the Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929 and lasted until the outbreak of World War II for the United States in 1941. This was a difficult time for the country, and for black people, as well. They served in the military, but again in segregated forces, and they began to chafe at the way they were treated by the military and by society in general.
Economically, the entire country was suffering from the depression. Millions of people, including countless blacks, were out of work and economically unstable. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election in 1933 saw the coming of the New Deal, which did provide some opportunities for Blacks in many of the programs the New Deal created, but overall, this was a very difficult time for most people in the country. Many migrated west to try to find opportunities in states like California, and many lost their homes and businesses.
The result of this was a shift in population centers, and a new generation of the poor. During this time, Jim Crow laws and segregation became even more prevalent, especially in the South, which led to separate areas or even buildings for Blacks throughout the South. They could not use the same schools, churches, restrooms, drinking fountains, or even hotels as white people, and they had to sit at the back of the bus when using public transportation. They were limited in just about every aspect of their lives, which is why more people left the South for new areas.
When the war started, the economy finally began to pick up and then boom, and many people went north to work in factories producing military items necessary for the war effort. Jobs were plentiful, and with so many men off fighting the war, many women stepped into the jobs, including Black women. These women learned valuable trades, and they learned they could take care of their families, too.
There was a major result of the war on returning Black veterans. They were unwilling to face the segregation and prejudice that greeted them in the South when they returned home. They wanted to be treated equally, and this was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. They felt they had fought and been wounded for their country, and that they should not have to face Jim Crow laws and subjugation (Editors, 2008).
For most Americans, the war improved their living conditions and social status. While there was rationing of many items, and some food was limited, most Americans, including African-Americans, had more money, more food, and a higher standard of living. Everyone made sacrifices during the war, but by 1945, the depression was a memory, and after the war ended, Americans could only see good things on the horizon.
1945 through 1976
This was a pivotal time for Black Americans, Civil Rights, and the nation. After the war, things continued to improve around the country. African-Americans came home to a prosperous country, and they continued to migrate north for jobs and opportunities. However, they still faced opposition and prejudice. Many simply left the South, but others began to orchestrate opposition to segregation, calling for Civil Rights. Life was better, but it still was not equal for Blacks, and things began to happen to rectify that. One thing that happened in 1947 was the first major league Black ball player, Jackie Robinson. He joined the Brooklyn Dodgers that year, and many people disapproved (Editors, 2010). Today, all races play in all the major league clubs, and it is not unusual, but it was at the time.
Another major influence on the search for Civil Rights was President Truman's denouncement of segregation in the military in 1948. He signed a bill…
Sources Used in Documents:
Adeboyejo, B. (2005, May/June). Q & A: Curating African-American history for the nation. The Crisis, 112, 7.
Dagbovie, P.G. (2006). Strategies for teaching African-American history: Musings from the past, ruminations for the future. The Journal of Negro Education, 75(4), 635+.
Editors. (2010). African-American history timeline. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2010 from the Peterson Education Web site: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bhmtimeline.html.
Editors (2008). African-American odyssey. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2010 from the Library of Congress Web site: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart7.html.
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