Paper Example on Social and Political Development of African-Americans Since 1866

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African-Americans have often been marginalized. After the ratification of Thirteenth Amendment which banned slavery, African-Americans had to fight vigorously for their political, social and economic rights because freed slaves needed to restart their lives as the United States recovered from the disastrous civil war (Taylor, 2009). The African-Americans had to secure their rights to get social political and economic empowerment. They had to seek education, rights to employment, rights to own property and right to vote. Hartman (1997) asserts that these rights could not be an offer on a silver platter especially in The South where there was resentment due to loss of slave labor in plantations. This paper analyzes four major events in the social and political development of African American; African American civil rights movement, Harlem Renaissance, Black Power Movement and Black Power Movement.

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The African-American Civil Rights Movement

The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to a movement that fought for reforms in the United States with the aim of getting rid of racial discrimination, improving education access and achieving political rights (Taylor, 2009). After the civil war, the US federal government initiated a reconstruction plan which involved the provision of aid to freed slaves. The passing of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was a significant achievement of African American civil rights movement. These amendments guaranteed equal rights for all citizens regardless of their race as Blacks were entitled rights to own land, seek employment and the right to take part in elections (Du Bois, 2013). The Justice Department was allowed to enforce the new civil rights through the court system. However, according to Charmichael and Hamilton (1969), the majority of the Southerners who were whites could not concede equal rights to their former slaves; hence, White supremacist organizations such as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the White League came up to intimidate African-Americans and suppress their voting rights. These organizations acted openly in total disregard of the law. White supremacists fought back tirelessly, and soon some of these gains were lost again.

During this period African-Americans took time to learn and become literate. These educational opportunities were supported by missionary organizations, the federal government, and churches (Taylor, 2009). Education was vital for civil rights equality. High illiteracy among African-Americans made education an essential part of the civil right movement. However, there was some distrust in education as most teachers were white. The Civil Rights Movement advocated for black schools where all teachers and principals were Black.

Religion in the civil movement was manifested by the development of African American Churches. In these churches, members were predominantly black, with the African Methodist Episcopal Church being the most active black church and besides sermons, churches acted as venues for prayer meetings, youth clubs, and public lectures (Taylor, 2009). Political leaders could also address congregations at the church.

In the 1880s, conditions for African-Americans worsened. Southern states passed Jim Crow laws which required segregation in all public areas (Charmichael & Hamilton, 1969). Blacks allowed to vote were reduced exponentially through a variety of requirements. The US Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia (1986) made "separate but equal" facilities for blacks legal (Hartman, 1997). This was a huge setback for Black Americans. Schools became segregated, and intermarriages between races were outlawed. Segregation in public transport became a symbol of political oppression for blacks. The lynching of Black Americans on streets became a frequent occurrence. The American media stereotyped blacks as savages or criminals.

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance refers to an artistic explosion that took place in Harlem, New York in the aftermath of World War I (Coleman, 1998). Harlem was the landing-place for African-Americans from all over the United States. Industrialization in the wake of World War I had induced mass migration to urban areas and a book "The New Negro" by Alain Locke, published in 1925, documented the lives and experiences of blacks from the Civil War (Taylor, 2009). This led to the formation of New Negro Movement. The movement challenged the thinking of black artists and authors. Blacks could challenge white Americans attitude towards them. These artists choose to celebrate their African culture and heritage which had survived centuries of slavery. Poetry, arts, and literature were used to dissipate political messages.

Harlem Renaissance challenged church policies that prevented African-Americans from attaining higher church position. "The Crisis" published in 1920 shows problems affecting blacks in the Catholic Church (Hartman, 1997). Harlem Renaissance also brought about religious practices that existed in Africa before the advent of slavery and the rebirth of Islam occurred in the US (Coleman, 1998). Criticism of religion began, and authors showed how Christianity was a symbol of oppression.

Music evolved during the Harlem Renaissance. Contemporary jazz was introduced, became popular in the United States, and Black music and poetry became attractive even to white Americans CITATION Pau01 \l 1033 (Anderson, 2001). Roland Hayes became the first musician to gain a wide reputation among all Americans.

Harlem Renaissance gave African-Americans a sense of pride in their race. Literature, art, and music gave Africans a sense of belonging. Coleman (1998) affirms that except for Pan-Africanism, no other trait was similar to art that developed during the Harlem Renaissance. However, experiences of slavery and racial segregation were common. Art was use to prove a point on the humanity of blacks and to make a case for equality.

The Black Power Movement

Black Power Movement was designed to improve the general welfare of African-Americans. The movement refers to a political movement by African-Americans with the aim of attaining political empowerment (Taylor, 2009). The Black Power Movement was a major force in the creation of equality between blacks and whites. It formulated services that were owned by blacks and served blacks including stores, bookshops, and farms. Du Bois (2013) explains that the movement aimed to counter white supremacists, and in later stages, it became violent and had clashes with the white supremacists.

According to Hartman (1997), the Black Power Movement created community-based media institutions. Media was vital in disseminating its information and recruitment of new members. The media organization enabled political discussion between black listeners. Violence against black Americans led to the rise of Black Panther Party, a violent wing of the Black Power Movement (Charmichael & Hamilton, 1969). The members offered protection to famous black movement members of the black power Movement. Black Panther Party policed the police in the black neighborhood. This reduced police brutality against African-Americans. However, Taylor (2009) explains that the Black Panther Party became a target of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and many members were arrested and jailed.

The Black Arts Movement

The Black Art Movement was a social part of black power movement that encouraged the growth of African literature, music, and arts (Anderson, 2001). This movement invigorated black Americans to found their studios, and art institutions. The assassination of Malcolm X sparked the Black Arts Movement (Du Bois, 2013). It was founded as an alternative form of protest against racial segregation. It enabled blacks to educate other Americans about culture differences. The movement was brought together by the use of print media, which was popular with blacks.

Black Arts Movement led to the collaboration of African American musicians, especially in jazz. Jazz was preferred as it was more appealing politically than other music genres. Literature growth resulted in the development of creative masterpieces, although these masterpieces were estranged by mainstream media due to extreme graphic content, and Amiri Baraka's "The Revolution Theatre" was important to the movement (Anderson, 2001). It campaigned for progression of blacks' art. The book questioned the white supremacists who were in power at that moment. It challenged why blacks were seen as an outlaw in politics.

The Black Arts Movement also led to the acceptance of minorities. According to Taylor (2009), the period of controversy by the movement resulted in increased acceptance of gays, lesbians, and Latinos. The movement also propelled African-Americans to greater heights in music, arts, and literature.


The civil rights of African-Americans can be attributed to a series of events that happened from the end of the American Civil War to date. The civil rights movement enabled African-Americans to vote, own property and seek employment. Although voting rights did not last for long, it gave them the hope for a better future. It was not until several decades later when the Black Power Movement won them the victory against racial segregation and the right to vote. Cultural events such as the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Art Movement brought about a revolution that gave African-Americans a sense of pride in their culture. These revolutions also enabled African heritage to be appreciated by white Americans. Black musicians could perform even to white audiences. The Black Art Movement also brought about controversies that led to the acceptance of minorities.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Anderson, P. A. (2001). Deep River: Music and Memory in Harlem Renaissance Thought. Columbia College Press.

Charmichael, S., & Hamilton, C. V. (1969). The Politics of Liberation in America. Pelican Books.

Coleman, L. (1998). Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Critical Assessment. Taylor & Francis.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (2013). Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. Transaction Publishers.

Hartman, S. V. (1997). Scenes of subjection: Terror, slavery, and self-making in nineteenth-century America. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Taylor, C. (2009). African American Religious Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement. The Gild Lehrmann. Retrieved March 13, 2017

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