Before taking African American Studies, I thought I had adequate information on African American history and culture. I was conversant with the prominent figures in the black community’s history, who shaped present-day race relations in America and globally. I learned a lot about historical events and political events that remain significant in modern society. I also learned about the many laws enacted to deal with racial issues and which, in one way or another, contributed positively to the kind of society we have today. In the first classes, we learned about the Black Reconstruction. It was a short-lived era in American history after slavery.
The course gave extended details on the post-Civil war south. Contrary to what I knew, for about a decade between 1867 and 1877, African Americans in the south had actively and responsibly participated in public life more than those from the North (Painter, 2006; Vox, 2016). Remarkably, black people had the right to pursue education. With time, they became notable contributors economically. For the enslaved, the first years of freedom involved a transition from slave households to independent houses, from slave labor to free labor, constituting what was known as the social revolution.
Arguably, Black Reconstruction was impressive. The cause of failure was not the alleged incompetence among black people. Instead, it demonstrated their competence and equality. The white southerners who did not participate in the conventions somehow degraded the black delegates as incompetent and white delegates as carpetbaggers. Despite the presence of liberals and conservatives in the Black Reconstruction politics, they were mainly centric, more committed to incorporating former confederates into the new state governments.
For the first time, I learned how African Americans joined in the years leading to the formation of the Black Power movement. Many young blacks had no identity, no education status, and had no employment (Painter, 2006). Yet, they wanted equality. They were considered frightening to the mainstream Americans, something that forced a massive crackdown of the movement and the eventual death of 16 panthers and over 700 imprisoned (David Hoffman, 2016). What somehow inspired me is how organized the black community was during this period. They would help each other, provide medical camps to fellow blacks, and educate their young ones about the black culture. All these were unfamiliar to me before enrolling in this course.
Another thing that I found interesting in the course was the individual contributions during the Harlem Renaissance, particularly in the artistic aspect. The renaissance represented a time in which black people did not perceive themselves as inferior. Instead, they considered themselves equal to the whites and used different artistic designs to express this concern (The Fountain of Praise, 2016). Southern migrants used Jazz, for instance, to contribute towards the general American culture. It was a means of expressing personal views. Honestly, these were times when everyone, including myself, would have wanted to get a first-hand experience because they were significant moments in American history.
Something else I was not conversant with before was the history of the New Deal. Surprisingly, the staggering financial collapse during Hoover’s administration hit black Americans the most, whereby thousands had already lost their agricultural jobs due to the declining cotton market and collapse of the industries (Vox, 2016). After the great depression of the 1920s, many people believed that Roosevelt would address economic woes. It was the origin of the New Deal. As the democrats campaigned for the Civil Rights Act in 1964, many black voters converted almost entirely to their new advocates. This history shows why many blacks lean towards the Democratic Party for many years. Many would argue that it contributed to the rise of the first African American President, Barrack Obama. I learned a lot of new things from African American Studies, which has shaped my understanding and perception of black communities and their culture.
David Hoffman. (2016). The Dawn Of Black Power [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdpFKMbUv30
The Fountain of Praise. (2016). Harlem Renaissance – Black History Moment of the Week [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkTVYtjKiF8
Painter, N. I. (2006). African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present.
Vox. (2016). How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8VOM8ET1WU