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Throughout The Years: What Does Being Black Mean?

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Being BLACK! What does that mean today? What did it mean yesterday? Through the years the simple definition of being BLACK has changed but really how much? Owning slaves is illegal but does the slave mentality continue? Through all their years of bondage, not being able to vote, segregation and no one respecting their civil rights; have things really changed? From slavery to President Barack Obama this paper is going to show that between these two points is definitely not a straight line.

In an American History class doing research in a book by the name of Nation of nations written by a Davidson & Delay, finding that it began its coverage of all the changes that Blacks would have to go through beginning with slavery and moving into the Emancipation Proclamation, Unit One was a time of mass confusion for Blacks, they had been set free from slavery, but set free to do what? To live where? To make money how? The world was a whole new place for them. They had to now take care of their own families, the Master's food was no longer available, and the Master's clothing was no longer available. What were they to do without sustenance and covering?

The government did not allow Blacks any political rights nor did they make any special plans for Blacks to get an education. Most states continued to write laws based on slavery times which were meant only to apply to Blacks, they did pretend to change them by allowing slave marriages to be acknowledged as legal, to allow Blacks to sue and be sued inside a court building and allowed southern Blacks to hold title to property but ultimately they wanted to keep the property out of the Blacks hands, the new laws that were written kept Blacks from testifying against whites, kept them off juries, some states even controlled how and where Blacks could work. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

For many years Blacks even though free lived in fear because there were so many radical people involved, so radical that they would attack the areas that Blacks lived in, they burned down the schools, burned down the churches, even killed several Blacks trying to get their message across "The negroes now know, to their sorrow, that it is not best to arouse the fury of the white man" one local newspaper reported. (Davidson, et al., 2008) The Blacks were being held back by laws that were being set by the President who was quietly trying to please others and by the radicals who believed that Blacks could not and should not have the same rights as they had, what could the Blacks do?

There were a few people that tried to fight back, there was Nat Turner, John Brown, Harriet Tubman even a lawsuit created by Dred Scott who not only received his freedom through the courts but helped others be set free well after the emancipation had been signed, but this could not stop the physical or mental attacks they did continued. (Black History Milestones, 2011)

There were laws created that would come to be known as the Black codes which were set-up in the United States in 1865 and 1866; these were the laws that were designed to replace the social controls of slavery that had been removed by the Emancipation and the Thirteenth Amendment; they were created to assure the continuance of white supremacy. The black codes varied from state to state but were all written to secure cheap labor and to make sure that the whites were still superior. They created a vagrancy law that allowed them to lock up any black that was unemployed and did not have a permanent home, now knowing that this person could not pay the fine they would bounded them out for a term of labor in order to cover the fine, these laws were ridiculously written but they were written. (Lynch, Hollis R.)

In Some states blacks were excluded from working at certain businesses and there were rules that limited them to only own certain types of property. They could not carry guns or testify in court, except in cases concerning other blacks. As long as the couple were black their marriages were legal, but interracial marriage were prohibited. The Freedmen's Bureau was created in 1865 to help the former slaves and to assist with the reconstruction. The reconstruction finally was able to do away with the black codes but, after the reconstruction was over, many of the laws returned under the Jim Crow laws, which did not end until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Lynch, Hollis R.)

From the beginning of their freedom Blacks wanted their right to vote to be permanent but not until 1870 did the 15th Amendment make it possible for Black men to vote, a lot of things begin to change during this time, the fact that Blacks outnumbered everybody else in most southern states meant they had voting power but never did a Black hold a Governor's position and even in South Carolina where Blacks totally out numbered everybody by 60% did they have one house under their control; because of educational issues most Black leaders were illiterate which caused the lack of an official positions in the legal and governmental system. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

Things were changing freedom brought about choices for the Blacks, job changes, last name choices, living arrangement choices and so much more; one Black in South Carolina left her cooking job for her ex-master even though he promised to double her pay she reluctantly said "I must leave or I will never know I am free". (Davidson, et al., 2008) There were internal issues that begin to occur within the Black communities, issues so deep it makes you wonder if the Willie Lynch speech as unreal as some say it is could have been used, the speech made a promise to slave owners it said "I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly it would control slaves for at least 300 years" (Lynch, Willie 1712) Even though Blacks were fighting for their rights, internally they were fighting one another it seemed just as the speech stated the old against the young, light against dark, smart against dumb; Lynch said use this technique and they will never trust each other.

Jim Crow Etiquette

A Black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a White male because it implied being socially equal. Obviously, a Black male could not offer his hand or any other part of his body to a White woman, because he risked being accused of rape.

Blacks and Whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, Whites were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.

Under no circumstance was a Black male to offer to light the cigarette of a White female -- that gesture implied intimacy.

Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended Whites.

Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks. For example: "Mr. Peters (the White person), this is Charlie (the Black person), that I spoke to you about."

Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to Blacks, for example, Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am. Instead, Blacks were called by their first names. Blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to Whites, and were not allowed to call them by their first names.

If a Black person rode in a car driven by a White person, the Black person sat in the back seat, or the back of a truck.

White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.

Thanks to

Stetson KennedyEven though there were not many choices the fact that they now had the right to choose is what became very important to them. In Unit Two, Blacks continued to be attacked, because of their numbers they could out vote many which meant that the Republican party had almost all the wins because that is the way Blacks would vote which cause the Jim Crow conspiracy to begin. The Black vote began to lose its weight, only when they needed the vote would their vote be counted.

During this time Blacks had to work out their own tolerance for the abuse that was occurring, Ida B Wells started an anti-lynching organization that would later turned into the National Association of Colored Women in 1896, they handled a wide range of reforms things dealing with education, housing, healthcare and of course she included lynching. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

At the same time there was Booker T. Washington who took a stab at pushing the acceptance of segregation as long as it was equal; he went on to establish the Tuskegee Institute and encouraged young blacks to work hard for what they want and to save what they earned for a later date. He has been quoted saying "Every laborer who learned a trade, every farmer who tilled the land could increase his or her savings. And those earnings amounted to "a little green ballot" that "no one will throw out or refuse to count" (Davidson, et al., 2008)

The Jim Crow era brought with it the White Supremacy idea, there were so many racially based arguments beginning to occur. The Democratic Party was trying to remove the Blacks right to vote and protesting to their party that they did not owe the Negroes anything. The Democratic Party was totally racially motivated everything they did they would say it was to save their race.

Between 1877 and the mid-1960s Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-Black laws it became the way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were second class citizens, many Christian ministers taught that Whites were the Chosen people and that Blacks were cursed to be servants. Under Jim Crow Blacks had to constantly show whites the highest level of respect. (Kennedy, Stetson 1959/1990)

In Unit Three, life for Blacks was brand new due to War World I. When World War I broke out, there were four all-black regiments: the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. These men were considered heroes in their communities. Within a week of the war starting the War Department had to stop accepting black volunteers because their quotas were filled. The Blacks viewed the conflict as an opportunity to prove their loyalty, patriotism, and worthiness for equal treatment in the United States. (Bryan, Jami 2003)

Even though there was still discrimination going on the Army was way ahead of the rest of the military when it came to race relations, Blacks could not be a Marine and they were only able to have small positions in the Navy and the Coast Guards but by the end of World War I Blacks had served in cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer, and artillery units, as well as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists, and intelligence officers. (Bryan, Jami 2003)

Millions of Blacks began to move North because of the unemployment issues and they were trying to create a new day, racial discrimination was still on the rise which continued to fight against anything good that Blacks got started. There were many Black icons come from this era; the 1920's was a period of change Marcus Garvey. W.E.B Du bois, Booker T. Washington and Poet Langston Hughes just to name a few were all a part of the Black equality struggle.

In Unit Four, life for Blacks was more live-able Jackie Robinson had integrated America's favorite sport, along with Larry Doby, Henry Thompson, Willard Brown and Dan Bankhead, the four other Black men who also played in the major leagues in 1947. (The LA84 Foundation) The NAACP had high numbers in the membership category and CORE was developed and many fought for Black and Mexican Civil rights, in the south the Jim Crow attitude was still on the prowl they were still lynching Negroes, still trying to segregate Negroes they were not going to give in. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

The President at that time was Truman, he appointed a committee to check what was going on with Blacks civil rights after hearing that a Black Veteran had his eyes gorged out in the south. This committee found so many transgressions some that dealt with employment, education, voting rights and decent housing but every time Truman tried to take these issues in front of the congress the southern leaders would threaten a filibuster. The G.I. Bill of Rights were established and was paying for college, housing and even giving low interest loans to Veteran to start businesses, this did not include any minorities the Blacks and the Mexicans were not allowed to get these benefits the Blacks were not allowed due to some of the Jim Crow laws still being effective. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

Unit Five brings you to the 80's and life for Blacks is still found to be in lower income areas, the government has created internal ghettos which includes project living arrangements at the same time our government has changed tremendously and have accepted four woman one who came to be the first Black woman in the Senate, Mrs. Carol Moseley Braun, the Democratic Party now has many Blacks and they have voted in President Clinton who truly believes in equality. The highest paid celebrities were Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey who was also the highest paid woman; both political parties hoped that Colin Powel would be the next presidential candidate. Being black was not high on the bad list the government now had to deal with all the illegal aliens, the Asians and our foreign enemies. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

Blacks still had a division that remained clear and it showed in 1991 with the beating of Rodney King and how the officers were all found innocent which led to the L.A. Riots in 1992, there was a tape of this beating that was played constantly on television, on the internet and even the sounds were heard on the radio leading many Blacks to be reminded of their past, that a Black life is not as important as a White life which was also proven when all involved in the beating of the truck driver Reginald Dennings were all found guilty of their crimes and sent to prison. (Davidson, et al., 2008)

Because of so many reasons Blacks lost their place on the enemies list, there were illegal aliens that came from the south that America could now attack, there were a lot of Asian immigrants to attack and a lot of foreign enemies that could be attacked. Many Blacks felt like after the scene at the World Trade Center they had finally become a part of this world, they were no longer the enemy, all races were being sent to war after the same guy, for the same reason as a team. There were no more visual color lines. We all were Americans, We were all in this together, we all had lost something and we all wanted to defend our home.

So After eight years of being held captive behind the pregnant voting chads somehow they have arrived, arrived to the day that the highest man in power in the United States is a Black man. Barack Obama, after all the years of not being as important, as reliant, as resilient, as determined, as successful, as superior, as intelligent; WOW! A Black Man is finally President.


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