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How Life Has Changed For African Americans History Essay

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Life has changed dramatically for African Americans in the last 145 years. African Americans have seen changes to their culture, role in politics, and the economy. African Americans have chosen to progress and change their fate in the past 145 years rather than sit back and simply accept the way that they are treated by others. They prove that a lot can change in a matter of just a few years.

President Lincoln ended slavery during the Civil War in 1862. This was called the Emancipation Proclamation. Even though it freed the slaves, some of the slaves stayed with their Masters. They had a comfort level with them and really had no where else to go. Most others were happy to be free and go make a life for themselves elsewhere. Charleston, South Carolina acted as a magnet for many thousands of freed slaves who migrated to the city seeking work after the end of the war, reversing a short-term decline in the city's black population evident in the 1850s (Lockley).

African Americans felt that the best way for them to take care of themselves is to own land and till it by their own labor (McGraw-Hill pg478). However, not many owned land after the war as it was hard to come by if you were of color. Just because the laws changed, doesn't mean that opinions changed. White Americans still wanted to control the land and did not want African Americans to have it because that gave more control.

Since they were not able to own much of the land, they had to work for the white land owner a lot of the time. Sharecropping became popular during this time. African Americans would live in cabins in distant parts of the white owners land and would farm separate plots of a white owners land. At the end of the year, they split the profit of the crops (McGraw-Hill pg483).

African Americans did not have many in political office during this time. Only those in top levels of their own society held any type of office. Most of them were free before the war. The very few that were in office were more conservative than the majority of African Americans and they did not show any interest in the issue of Blacks owning land (McGraw-Hill pg 479).

It was important that African Americans had the right to vote. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment gave African American males the right to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment does not allow the denial of the right to vote based on race, color or previous conditions of servitude. Blacks were more apt to vote Republican due to the Democratic party being more for the whites (McGraw-Hill pg 481 and 487).

While trying to keep the family together was difficult during slavery, it definitely got better after slavery. African American males were proud people and they were the head of the house. They would not allow their wives to work in fields as they did during slavery, but they were sure to have their children in the fields. Next to owning land, education was an important aspect of their lives. It was their hope for bettering themselves. African Americans were able to attend school, worship in churches and own land by the end of 1876.

In 1900, Black Americans as a whole increased their wealth holdings from $230,000,000 in 1900 to $500,000,000 in 1910 (Parker). If African Americans were not tilling the land, they had to find work somewhere. They were discriminated against just as women were during this time. Either they were not given the job or they were paid less wages than the white American male (McGraw-Hill pg559). They had a long way to go in the rode to equal rights. After the turn of the century though, black owned businesses started to thrive.

Segregation was big during this time. While blacks were able to own businesses, they owned their own business and only blacks shopped there. They worshipped in churches with only their own color and the same with schools. Whites and blacks did not do anything social together. During the 1880's, Redeemer's wanted to formalize segregation. Redeemer's were Democratic politicians that wanted to overrule any power that the Republicans had with regard to black Americans. The fourteenth amendment gave equal rights to all and the Redeemers were not successful. However, with segregation being an actual law, this allowed for blacks and whites to be totally separate, making blacks second class citizens. Blacks did not dare cross the line of segregation or they were sure to be lynched or whipped (McGraw-Hill pg 505 and 506).

In 1905, W.E.B. DuBois, founded the Niagara Movement and by 1909, it was renamed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (McGraw-Hill pg 644 and 645). This organization fights for equal rights for everyone. This was a milestone in the progression for blacks in this country. This organization leads the way to help assist those fighting for their rights even today. W. E. B. Du Bois' concept of "upbuilding," defined as "the 'social and economic development' of black communities after slavery, . . . the literal and figurative construction of the structures African Americans used to climb out of slavery" African Americans "upbuilt" their families, political and social institutions, and businesses in the face of "homegrown oppression and terrorism. Within decades, African Americans transformed Durham into the "capital of the black middle class."(Adams)

In the 1920s, most white Americans understood race as biology: blacks were genetically, irreversibly, inferior in intelligence, emotional maturity, governing capacity, and depth of finer feelings (Hochschild). During the timeframe of 1921-1945, African Americans continued to face prejudice. The Ku Klux Klan was an organization that was violent towards any black person. They would burn crosses on front lawns, rape black women, whip and lynch any black person. This came from such hatred, but they say they are God-fearing. If they are so proud of what they do, why do they wear white hoods hiding their faces?

Since segregation was still in place, blacks and whites were not able to be on the same sports teams. In 1920, they formed their own Baseball League called the 'The National Negro Baseball League'. By the end of 1920 and on to the end of 1929, something special came out of Harlem, New York. The music, art, theater, and literature of African-Americans came alive. 1921 saw the renewal of interest in the productive, creative talents of African-Americans. This historical stage was called the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Globetrotters were created in 1927. A lot of entertaining and fun came out of this era. African Americans were finding their way in society, but still separated by the hatred and thought that they were second class citizens.

During the Battle of the Bulge, blacks fought side by side for the first time with white soldiers. This may have been the start of some very valuable friendships that started to teach whites that blacks really weren't second class citizens. Money was scarce because of the Depression for everyone especially black Americans. By 1932, unemployment hit 50% for African Americans. In 1931, Elijah Muhammad established the Black Muslims. They blended faith and Black Nationalism. He wanted African Americans to celebrate their heritage and have self-discipline. He wanted to strive for a separate black nation.

During the timeframe of 1946-1976 a lot of changes took place for African Americans. The NAACP started a more accelerated fight against segregation and discrimination in America. 1953 marked the start of a campaign called the "Fight for Freedom." On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus and was arrested. The NAACP wanted to end the unfair treatment of African-Americans as American citizens by the year of 1963 The 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

I remember my dad telling me about the time that he lived in Jacksonville, FL in the 1950's and blacks were not allowed to walk on the same side of the sidewalk as whites did. He was surprised by this because he lived in Richmond, IN before moving there and this was a different way of living for him. But, this is how it was in the south. He even befriended a black person and his parents frowned on it. I can remember my mother frowning on me having black friends even in the early 1980's.

The 60's brought about the high hope of change for African Americans. Martin Luther King gave everyone hope for peace and equal rights for all. He was able to assist in the Civil Rights act in 1964 and the Voting Rights act in 1965. King spread his message with non-violence. He saw many African Americans fighting for justice through violence and he still tried to get his message across with non-violence. He would let young African Americans know that they did not win anything if people were dying. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in 1968 (McGraw-Hill). Riots broke out among many. People seemed to forget what King's message was really about. King wanted change without violence. He wanted change for all poor races, not just African Americans. Many Americans today remember King not as a firebrand radical but as a godly preacher who sought brotherhood and sisterhood among all (Simpson).

African Americans have faced many challenges in life. One of the most frustrating would be housing. Over the past 100 years, city planners have used neighborhood planning to address a variety of issues. The formula used has discriminated against blacks and poor families. The thought being that they did not belong in all white middle class neighborhoods. Over a 25-year life of a program designed to renew urban neighborhoods, Congress made various alterations in response to criticisms and concerns, so that the urban renewal program of 1973 was very different than the one originally passed in 1949. Its transformation began with the Housing Act of 1954, in which Congress responded to early criticism of the program by authorizing the use of federal funds for the rehabilitation of housing and neighborhoods rather than just their clearance, and providing a special allocation of public housing units for families displaced by urban renewal projects. The same law was also the first to allow projects that involved commercial development and redevelopment (Rohe). Neighbors, realtors, banks, and mortgage companies play a role in the qualitative immersion into case materials offering important insight on relevant processes pertaining to victimization and status, and how discriminatory actions themselves occur (Roscigno).

By the time 1990 came, things were well on their way to improving for African Americans. Oprah Winfrey was the highest paid woman in America and she is also African American. Colin Powell was looked at to possibly be the next president. But, when Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles police and the police were not found at fault, there was a major set back. Riots filled the streets, people were angry (McGraw-Hill pgs973 and 974). It was like the riots from before.

In 1991, economic success ensued. Once declared a slum, people rebuilt old neighborhoods and made them worth several hundred more dollars than before. This was a step forward for African Americans. But, they were leary of the statistics. After going through so much, could it be true? Could things be getting better? The twenty-first century showed the final success for African Americans. It finally happened, a black president. Barack Obama was voted the 44th President of the United States. He was the first African American President. How joyous this occasion was for many. I remember going to McDonald's that day and the air was different in there. Everyone was talking to everyone, white, black, it didn't matter. They just wanted to soak in the moment. It gave us all hope that finally, people would be judged on their actions rather than the color of their skin.

The economy in the twenty-first century is horrible for all. The difference between now and 100 years ago is that it doesn't matter if someone is black or white. Black people make the same wages as whites do, black people live in the same neighborhood as white people do. They go to the same schools, worship at the same churches and eat at the same restaurants. Freedom is a beautiful thing for us all. Acceptance is even better.

Of course, things are not perfect, I don't know if they ever will be. I see so many homicides on the news. It seems that is mostly African Americans shooting each other for one reason or another. I would say this is our biggest challenge today with regard to the culture of African Americans. How horrifying for families to face this no matter what color or race they are. It would seem that they are still angry about something. Why else would they feel that violence is the answer?

There is much success that can show young African Americans that they can succeed. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopee Goldberg, Barack Obama, Sean Combs, just to name ones that come to my mind. They can be doctors, lawyers, basketball players, singers, etc. Never has it been easier to accomplish any goal that they set out to do. But, they still fight each other? I don't understand it and wish I did.

Life has changed dramatically for African Americans in the last 145 years. African Americans have seen changes to their culture, role in politics, and the economy. African Americans have chosen to progress and change their fate in the past 145 years rather than sit back and simply accept the way that they are treated by others. They prove that a lot can change in a matter of just a few years.


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