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African Americans have a long and troubled history in North America, experiencing a wide range of discriminatory and racist

practices. While victimized by these actions, black Americans also found ways to combat their situation and fought in various ways for equal rights. In reality, African Americans have the most complicated history of any American minority group and yet their efforts have also been one of the most inspirational for other oppressed peoples.

Africans arrived in the thirteen colonies, not through voluntary immigration or colonization, but rather through forced enslavement. The Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to many parts of the ³New World,´ and, in the English colonies, southern plantation owners bought most Africans as field workers as well as servants. Subsequently,a complete loss of rights and freedoms for their entire lifetime as well as harsh working conditions defined their lives in the slave South. Although some slaves resisted their owners by breaking tools, working slowly, or running away, most had little choice but to accept their situation.

Racism and prejudice played a large role in African enslavement. Popular and scientific thought in Europe and the US emphasized the biological inferiority of blacks. Many believed that intellectually, Africans were inferior to Anglo-Americans, and others claimed that they were doing a service to Africans by giving them food and shelter, plus introducing them to Christianity. Segregation also existed, but differed from region to region. In the North, slaves were less numerous, but freed blacks had to carefully control their behavior and keep their identity papers on them at all time. In the South, a strict segregation system was in place, especially in terms of miscegenation, living quarters, and social mores. Yet at the same time, African slaves who worked in white American homes often had intimate contact with the family, including caring for babies, preparing meals, and ministering to the sick.

not until after World War II and the beginning of the Cold War era did the modern Civil Rights Movement begin in earnest. de jure and de facto segregation extended to virtually all public services.After the Civil War. On the other hand.. African Americans still endured bitter racism. Examples like Powell¶s demonstrate that some African Americans. during the Cold War.E. perhaps participating in their own oppression. Hoping to keep a passive and controllable black population. such groups used violent tactics well into the twentieth century. Through the struggles of groups like SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). Marcus Garvey. On the one hand. Although guaranteed freedom by constitutional amendment. political. as well as erudite leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Washington. especially in legislation protecting voter registration and requiring the desegregation of public facilities. hospitals. Philip Randolph. In one case. restaurants. W. many African Americans also felt a duty to support anti-communism and thus protected the US from Soviet charges of racism and hypocrisy. felt it necessary to . and economic activities. and even graveyards. In addition. and segregation practices. restrooms. including buses.B. progress was made in African American civil rights. the rise of groups like the Knights of the White Camellias and the Ku Klux Klan promised to protect southern womanhood and incite fear among rebellious African Americans. Some African Americans accepted discrimination. and A. Jim Crow laws perpetuated the limitations that slavery had initiated. when faced with external threats to US national security. and also social. In the postwar era. Although civil rights efforts began through the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and leaders like Booker T. prejudice. Adam Clayton Powell went abroad extolling the virtues of American society and denied that the US faced enormous racial problems. a wide majority of black Americans supported anti-racism efforts. trains. Du Bois. including cross-burnings and lynchings.

Since the 1970s. African Americans still face various forms of racism. or the double impact of prejudice against blacks and females. However. structurally and otherwise. African Americans have experienced virtually every form at one point or another. scientific institutions. many still found that programs like affirmative action hindered rather than help level the playing field with whites. when African American voters in Florida were virtually disenfranchised by the Republican Party. While there are exceptions to this rule. who received entry level jobs as part of affirmative action. The so-called ³glass ceiling´ also affected most African American a pro-racist American federal government. As for specific forms of discrimination. most African Americans could only find employment as unskilled laborers. only to watch white counterparts move into higher management positions while blacks could expect very limit upward mobility. Moreover. and segregation. usually in the service sector. As has been well-established by writers like bell hooks and Alice Walker. Institutional forms of discrimination included military and federal jobs. this practice has been outlawed. but evidence from the Vietnam War suggests that African . race-based statistics from corporate America. discrimination. The dual labor market system has relegated blacks to secondary sectors for most of the history of the US. After the end of slavery. but also within the African American world as well. Since the 1950s. the US has promoted its progress in race relations and claimed to have a colorblind and multi-cultural stance. this double jeopardy means that they encounter discrimination not only in relation to the white community. African American females experience double jeopardy. As more African Americans became university graduate in the late twentieth century. and even the federal government all prove that some form of bias in employment does exist. The 2000 presidential elections are a recent and prominent example.

Viet Cong propaganda reflected an awareness of such problems. and dangerous living conditions. divisions resulted as blacks who benefited from reverse discrimination became the targets of scorn. True. with many black communities left with inadequate infrastructure. most urban area banks followed this trend into the 1990s. scholarships and grants. characterized by resentment of special treatment and programs for black Americans.Americans made up a disproportionate number of soldiers sent to the front lines. Examples of environmental justice also have proliferated. derision. In some cases. Within the African American society. unresponsive city officials and services. some African Americans enjoyed privileges such as university admission. but some resulting effects have been disheartening. African Americans benefited from reverse discrimination. Yet reverse discrimination inspired a white backlash. and art all draw from black cultural . for example. and even employment based on affirmative actions programs designed to support minority education and development. The most prominent instances of this practice occurred in Chicago and Philadelphia. asking black American soldiers ³Why are you fighting a white man¶s war?´ to great effect. Today American mainstream culture and African American culture overlap in various ways and I identify with both equally. prevented many black Americans from receiving mortgages or loans to buy or improve their homes. Other less prominent forms of discrimination hampered African American efforts to enjoy civil rights in the US. and even violence by other African Americans. plus extreme antagonism that inspired new expressions of racism. The practice of redlining. African Americans have had to sue local governments in order to have basic services restored or repaired. fashion. Music. and although outlawed.

Successful black performers almost always fit a stereotype held by whites. Most black entertainers who succeed are either comedians or musicians ± very few dramatic film roles have gone to African Americans in the past. tends to denigrate African Americans even while they use elements of black culture. Mainstream American culture.values so much so that it is difficult to distinguish between the two. . however. prominent businessmen like Russell Simmons have become icons. and a president of African ancestry is now in the White House. as in the case of Madonna. Still. American culture has been forever influenced by African Americans. hip-hop culture dominates the radio airwaves and MTV programming. Some argue that whites have appropriated black culture in order to benefit financially. as evinced by events of the past decade: Denzel Washington and Halle Berry have both won Oscars. who throughout her years as a performer has drawn heavily from black and gay sub-cultures to ³express herself´ artistically.