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Historical Content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


Dutty Boukman

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


Toussaint Louverture

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


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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


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.  


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


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


Barack Obama

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


Kamala Harris

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


John Lewis

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


Maya Angelou

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


Kobe Bryant

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


Serena Williams

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


Douglas Wilder

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


Carol Moseley Braun

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


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.

Katherine Johnson

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


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. 


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. 


Gladys West

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


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. 


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. 


Alexa Canady

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


Tiger Woods

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

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