Historical Content

Pre-Slavery (pre-1619):

African Cultural Traditions

African Dance & Music

  • Often used for celebrations

    • Coronation of a king, burial of a person, etc.

    • Weddings, religious ceremonies, tribal traditions, birth, etc.

  • Vary throughout Africa, but most have similar ideals

    • Require lots of energy​

    • Some require acrobatic skills

    • People often dress up & wear costumes & traditional masks for these dances

  • Many different instruments are used in music

    • Xylophone, flute, trumpet, harps, drums, etc.

  • African music has different patterns from Western music

    • Often requires entire body movement as opposed to just the hands/mouth playing the instrument

    • Usually played as a group with multiple people playing together

    • Different people play different rhythms on different instruments but with the same general meter

    • Sometimes, multiple people play similar rhythms but starting a few beats apart, creating cross rhythms

    • Call-and-response pattern is very common

      • A leader plays a rhythm, and followers play it immediately after

African Art

  • Often represents human figures

  • Mostly 3-D art, prefer less 2-D art

    • Mostly make masks or sculptures of human faces

  • Often abstractly represent concepts as opposed to literally depicting them

  • Masks are often worn in ceremonies & in dances

Slavery (1619-1863):

Slave Raiding in Africa & Journey to Americas

  • Europeans chose to send Africans as slaves to the Americas

    • Europeans previously used indigenous Americans for labor, but this didn't work out

      • Indigenous Americans knew the land well & could easily escape

      • Indigenous Americans were prone to European diseases, causing them to easily die

    • Europeans chose Africans because they are abundant in quantity

      • Since Africans aren't familiar with American land, it is difficult for them to escape​

      • European racist ideologies regarded Africans as weaker & inferior

      • While Africans are also prone to diseases, they are abundant in quantity, so Europeans can easily go to Africa to get more slaves

    • These African slaves would work on plantations in the Americas, cultivating cash crops for European benefit

      • They'd work for life without pay​

  • Slaves were often captured in slave-raiding expeditions led by African kings

    • Europeans supplied guns to African kingdoms in exchange for slaves​

    • These African Kingdoms would use the guns to raid neighboring kingdoms & capture slaves

    • These slaves would be traded to Europeans in exchange for even more guns

    • This trading system allowed certain kingdoms to become super powerful at the expense of other kingdoms

  • Once slaves were captured, they were kept at African ports until a European slave ship arrives

    • The slaves would be branded & their hair would be cut bald to prevent the transfer of lice

  • Once the slave ship arrives, hundreds of slaves would be crammed into one deck for a trans-Atlantic journey known as the "Middle Passage"

    • Slaves would be given little food

    • Bunks would be crammed on top of each other, giving little opportunity for slaves to sit upright

    • Sick slaves would be thrown overboard in the ocean to prevent transfer of disease within the ship

    • 25% of slaves died in this journey​
  • Once the ship arrives in the Americas, the slaves would be sold to plantation owners

Enslaved People's Treatment in the Americas

  • Once slaves arrives in the Americas, they were treated cruelly

    • Slaves were forced to work 6 days a week

    • Lived in small dirty outhouses on the plantation

    • Received little food & sanitation, no money

    • Mortality was high, which prompted the need for more slaves from the Americas

    • Slaves that did work poorly or rebelled were beaten

      • Often punished by whipping, beating, hanging, branding, etc.

    • Slaves were treated as property & weren't allowed to marry

    • Families were often separated as members were sold away to different plantations

  • Slaves often brought their cultural traditions with them to the Americas

    • Often syncretized African indigenous culture with American or European culture

    • Syncretized different African cultures (from different kingdoms/tribes) into one

Anti-Slavery Activists

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Dutty Boukman

Early leader of Haitian Revolution. Leader of maroons (slave revolt group). 

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Toussaint Louverture

Main leader of Haitian Revolution. Led group of slaves to successfully revolt against French rule. Drafted Haitian declaration of independence. 

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Olaudah Equiano

Sold into slavery, bought his freedom in 1766. Went to Britain & promoted abolitionism (the abolishment of slavery). Wrote autobiographies detailing the horrors of slavery. 

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David Walker

Wrote a book to call for black unity & fight against slavery. Brought attention to the responsibility for individuals to act collectively against slavery. 

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Sojourner Truth

Former slave, escaped to freedom with her daughter. Went to court to gain freedom for her son, became first black to win an anti-slavery case against a white man. Helped recruit slaves for union army, tried to give land grants to former slaves after Civil War. Advocated for women's rights. 

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Frederick Douglass

Former slave, supported abolitionist cause in Massachusetts & New York. Wrote an autobiography which became really popular in US & Europe. Promoted unity among all abolitionists, regardless of race. 

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Harriet Tubman

Former slave, helped about 70 free other slaves escape using the underground railroad, a network of underground passages for slaves to escape. Served as a Union spy & nurse during Civil War. 

Immediate Post-Slavery (1863-1954):

Emancipation of Slaves

  • In 1861, when Lincoln became president, he had no views about supporting or abolishing slavery

    • In 1861, when the 11 southern states seceded & formed the Confederacy, Lincoln only cared about preserving the Union & joining the US together again

  • In 1863, Lincoln passed Emancipation Proclamation

    • While many ​believe this freed all slaves, it isn't true

    • It actually freed slaves in Confederate states so they can join the Union army & fight

    • It didn't free slaves in union-friendly border states nor in states occupied by Union army

      • Since these states were already friendly to or occupied by the Union, there was no need to free their slaves to help fight their state

  • In Dec 1865 Lincoln ratified the 13th amendment to the Constitution, finally freeing all slaves

    • However, slaves still weren't free in all southern states​

    • The Union army arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth), freeing all Texan slaves

      • This is the official end of slavery

Post-Emancipation Period (Reconstruction)

  • After emancipation of slaves in 1865, a federal army went to the south to allow for peaceful transition to freedom for former slaves (a period known as Reconstruction)

    • Army made sure that whites don't violently discriminate against blacks​

    • This era was known as Reconstruction

Civil Rights Movement Period (1954-1968):

Origins of Civil Rights Movement

  • After slavery was abolished in 1865, the federal army came to the south to help integrate blacks into society

    • This period lasted until 1877, and was known as Reconstruction

    • Federal army made sure blacks were peacefully integrated into society without any discrimination

  • After Reconstruction, starting from 1877. whites sought to restore white supremacy in the south

    • Since there was no federal army, the blacks couldn't do much to stop their oppression

    • Juries were all-white, and they would acquit most whites for harming blacks

    • Plessy v Ferguson case (1896) made segregation legal

      • Plessy, a black man, s​at in a whites-only train carriage & was arrested

      • Plessy went to US Supreme Court, which decided that having "separate but equal" things for blacks & whites was allowed & constitutional

      • Thus, many states adopted segregation laws, known as Jim Crow laws, segregating everything in life (restaurants, buses, trains, schools, etc.) between blacks & whites

        • Jim Crow was a term used to mock African-Americans​

        • While the law claims they are "separate but equal," they weren't equal as blacks fared worse than whites

      • In buses, blacks had to give up their seat to whites if there weren't any empty seats, proving that blacks & whites weren't equal
  • Louisiana originally was more tolerant toward blacks, but after 1877, blacks were discriminated against

    • Louisiana w​as a French colony, and it was more tolerant to blacks

    • It had free whites, enslaved blacks, and free blacks (gens de couleur)

    • Free blacks were of mixed white & black ancestry

    • After Reconstruction in 1877, free whites regarded gens de couleur as blacks, removing the privilege the gens de couleur had over blacks

  • Starting 1954, many blacks started to campaign for equal rights

    • In 1954, US Supreme Court ruled the segregation of public schools unconstitutional, the first major milestone of the civil rights movement​

      • This case was known as Brown v Board of Education (1954)

      • Still, southern states refused to enforce the laws, continuing segregation in schools​

    • Many black activists led marches, boycotts, and other peaceful protests to campaign for better rights

      • Sometimes, whites from the north joined the blacks in their protests​

Major Activists in the Civil Rights Movement

Ruby Bridges

  • In 1954, when US Supreme Court declared segregating public schools unconstitutional, most southern states didn't care to enforce it

    • By 1960, when Ruby Bridges, a black girl from New Orleans, LA, would be in 1st grade, schools were still segregated

    • All-White school board reluctantly decided that a test should be given to students at the all-black school for admission into the all-white school

  • Ruby Bridges was one of 6 black children that passed the exam at her all-black school, and she went to an all-white school to advance the movement of de-segregation

    • The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) told Ruby to attend the school

    • Ruby's mother was supportive & took her to her 1st day of school in 1960, along with 4 US marshals

    • The US government wanted to bring a gradual move toward desegregation, which is why US marshals were present to guard Ruby from angry white parents

    • White parents were protesting & refused to send their white children into the school with a black girl

    • Only one teacher, Barbara Henry, agreed to teach Ruby

      • She taught Ruby alone for a year​

  • The same year, 3 other black girls that passed the entrance exam went to another all-white school

    • These g​irls (Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gail Etienne) went to McDonogh No. 19 school in New Orleans

    • These girls were known as McDonogh Three

Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Famous civil rights activist

  • He was inspired by Mohandas Gandhi & his Christian faith to lead peaceful protests against injustice

  • Led Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955

    • Rosa Parks, a black woman, ​famously refused to give up her seat to a white man, and was arrested

    • MLK organized a boycott of the Montgomery Public Transit system to help achieve racial desegregation

  • In 1957, he became first president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

  • Led unsuccessful Albany Movement (1962) in Albany, GA

    • Sought to bring racial equality in Albany, GA, through peaceful protests​

    • The movement largely failed

  • Gave "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington in 1963

    • Delivered during his March on Washington of 1963

  • Organized Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965

    • A set of 3 marches from Selma, AL, to Montgomery, AL

    • On March 7, 1965 (Bloody Sunday), police attacked MLK's peaceful unarmed protesters with tear gas

  • Assassinated in Memphis, TN, in 1968

  • His actions led to Civil Rights Act of 1964 & Voting Rights Act of 1965

Other Activists in the Civil Rights Movement

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Rosa Parks

Famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955. Inspired Montgomery Bus Boycotts of 1955-1956, which ended in Dec 1956 when US Supreme Court declared that segregation in public buses was unconstitutional.  

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Malcolm X

Influential leader of Nation of Islam, an African American religious group. Sought to promote black separatism instead of racial integration. Later was assassinated in 1965

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W. E. B. Du Bois

Co-Founded NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1909. Advocated for pan-Africanism, sought freedom for African colonies from European powers. Leader of Niagara Movement (1905) that sought equality for African-Americans. 

Contemporary (1968-present):

Continued Oppression Toward Blacks

  • While blacks & whites are legally equal now, racial inequality still persists

    • Blacks & whites are often profiled differently, causing blacks to be treated with more oppression

    • Many white supremacists believe blacks to be dangerous & oppressive, and they attack or even kill blacks without facing significant charges

    • People call the police on blacks for no reason, falsely believing them to be dangerous

  • Police brutality is a serious problem today as police often treat blacks more harshly compared to whites

    • Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was murdered by two white supremacists who claimed to be making a citizens' arrest

      • Those two weren't arrested until protests broke out, showing favored treatment of police toward whites

    • George Floyd, a black man, was killed by police as he was arrested for giving a fake $20 bill at a store

      • The police officer pinned his knee on Floyd's neck, causing him to suffocate to death​

  • Still, many African-Americans play influential roles in our lives, and some are highlighted below

Notable African-Americans

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Barack Obama

44th President of the US (2009-2017). Very influential president, opened up Cuba for Americans, dissuaded situation in Iraq & Afghanistan. 

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Kamala Harris

US Senator from California. First African-American senator from CA, second African-American female in Senate. 

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John Lewis

Civil Rights activist, congressman from GA for 33 years (until death in 2020). 

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Maya Angelou

Civil rights activist, famous poet & author. Famous for her series of autobiographies about her childhood & adult life. 

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Kobe Bryant

Famous basketball player for Lakers. Died in 2020 in helicopter crash. Won 5 NBA championships, played for 20 years. 

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Serena Williams

Famous tennis player, formerly ranked #1 in women's tennis, won 23 grand slams. 

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Douglas Wilder

Governor of Virginia from 1990-1994. First elected African-American governor. 

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Carol Moseley Braun

First African-American female Senator. Senator from Illinois (1993-1999). First Democratic African-American senator. 

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Shirley Chisholm

First African-American woman elected to Congress. Served in Congress from 1969-1983, represented NY. Ran for Democratic nomination in 1972 Presidential election, became first woman to run for democratic presidential nomination. 

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Katherine Johnson

Known as "computer," known for math skills. Used mathematical skills to help put astronauts on the moon. 

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Mae C. Jemison

Worked for NASA, first black woman to travel into space (1992). Also appeared on Star Trek, becoming first astronaut to appear on the show. 

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Neil deGrasse Tyson

Famous astrophysicist, directed Hayden Planetarium in NY. Appeared on many talk shows & TV series. 

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Percy Julian

Influential chemist, pioneer in discoveries of making medicinal drugs from plants. 

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Gladys West

Influential mathematician, developed models of the map & terrain of the earth that were later used in Global Positioning System (GPS). 

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Marie M. Daly

Influential biochemist, first African-American woman to receive PhD in Chemistry (1947). Conducted research which offered a new perspective on how a person's diet affects their heart & circulatory system. 

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Edward Bouchet

First African-American to earn a PhD (in any field). Earned PhD in Physics from Yale in 1876, among first 20 Americans to earn PhD in Physics. 

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Alexa Canady

First African-American & first American woman to become a neurosurgeon (1981). 

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Tiger Woods

Famous golfer, formerly ranked #1 golfer. Has 100 major wins in golf tours.