Black History Month – Remembering the Black History

Black History is the term designated to that segment of the American history that discusses the African Americans in the United States. Most African Americans are descendants of the African slaves held in the United States from 1619 to 1865. Since 1976, Black History Month is celebrated annually in the United States and Canada during the month of February and during October in the United Kingdom. It is a remembrance of the events in the history of the African Diaspora.

African Diaspora

The word Diaspora means scattering or dispersion. The African Diaspora is the movement of Africans to places around the world either involuntarily as slaves shipped to the Americas by way of Atlantic slave trade or voluntarily looking for education, employment and better living. They came to be called in various parts of the world as African Americans, Afro Caribbeans, Afro-Latin Americans, Afro-Arabs, Siddis, in India, and Makrani, in Pakistan. The top five nations to which they migrated are Brazil, the United States, Columbia, Haiti and Dominican Republic.

African American History

African American History, also called Black History is the term designated to that segment of the American history that discusses the African Americans in the United States. The first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. The English settlers used to treat these slaves as their servants and release them after a number of years. Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery in 1941. Over the years, there have been a number of uprisings by these slaves. The most serious one being the Stono Uprising (1739) in South Carolina. About 150 slaves seized guns and ammunition, killed about 20 whites, and headed for Spanish Florida.

Early America: Before and After the Revolution (1776 – 1789)

The later half of the 18th century was the time of the American Revolution and the Independence of America. The Declaration of Independence, a symbol of freedom, was written by Thomas Jefferson, who owned more than 200 slaves. The Africans fought side by side with the whites during the war and about 5000 Africans were part of the Continental Army. The Constitutional Convention set forth ideals of freedom and equality. It was also in 1787 that the Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance barring slavery from the largest Northwestern territory. In 1780, Massachusetts declared all men are born free and equal. In the same year, Pennsylvania was the first state to abolish slavery. By 1790, 59,000 free Africans in the US.

The Antebellum Period (1789 – 1849)

The first major action against slavery came in 1808 when the Congress abolished the International slave trade. By 1819, there were exactly 11 free and 11 slave states. The number of free Africans was on the rise. Started in the early 1790s as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Black church was the major supporter of the African community. In 1857, we have the Dred Scott decision. A ruling by the U.S. Supreme court that people of African descent held as slaves (and their descendants, whether slaves or not) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States of America. The court also held that the US Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in Federal territories and as slaves were not regular citizens they cold not sue in court.

During and After the Civil War

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the southern states at war with the North. After the Civil War, the process of national African-American identity formation was in full swing. A brief period followed from 1865 to 1877, Reconstruction, where under protection of Union troops some steps were taken towards equal rights for African-Americans.

Jim Crow Laws and the Niagara Movement

Jim Crow laws are a set of laws that were enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated the provision of separate but equal facilities to all African-Americans. In reality, the treatment was generally inferior for the Africans. In response to these setbacks, in the summer of 1905, W. E. B. Du Bois and 28 other African-Americans met secretly at Niagara Falls and they produced a manifesto calling for an end to racial discrimination. The organization they was called the Niagara Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement

Many Civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized tactics like boycotts, voter registration campaigns, marches, etc. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the Washington march is epic! The “Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964 brought thousands of youth, both black and white, to run “freedom schools”, to teach basic literacy, history and civics.

After the Civil Rights Era

In 1989, Douglas Wilder became the first African-American elected governor in U.S. history. In 1992 Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Many more African Americans became famous after the Civil Rights Era like Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and most importantly the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama!

Black History Month

Also referred to as African-American History month, it has its roots in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson called for “Negro History Week“. Woodson chose second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly influenced cause of the African Americans, President Abraham Lincoln and former slave Frederick Douglass. Woodson also founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

References : Wikipedia, Britannica Encyclopedia, etc.!

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