African American history entails the American history with regard to black ethnic group that formed its root in America after being enslaved by the whites in their homeland. The heinous tradition of holding blacks in captivity and enslaving them began in the mid 16th century and lasted till 1865. Most of the blacks who make African American history were slaves. They have been called a variety of terms throughout American history, such as Negros and colored. But now, these terms are considered offensive to refer to African Americans. The contribution of African Americans in the history of United States can’t be neglected. Therefore, each year the blacks’ history in America is celebrated in the month of February to honor them. It is known as the Black History Month. It was not until late twentieth century that academic board in the United States decided to include African Americans’ history in their curriculum, which was previously marginalized for a number of reasons.
As mentioned earlier, the 80-85% African Americans population descended from their ancestors, who were brought from Africa to Northern America during slave trade. The rest of 10% arrived of their own accord by means of Caribbean route or other. The Africans who were captured in African wars were sold to various buyers including United States, Europe and Arabia. The slavery had its roots in Africa for centuries but it was not until Europeans arrived who expanded the market looking for low-cost labor. These labors were mostly captured upon false criminal charges or kidnapped.
These slaves were then transported through ships where they were separated from their families and segregated by gender. The first of slaves were brought to Fort Monroe in Hampton during 17th century. Their owner kept them as indentured servants which entailed their release upon serving for a certain period of time. This practice was later replaced by race-based slavery and eventually the relegation of blacks reached the point where the slavery was legalized in Massachusetts, in 1641. Gradually, other American states followed their example and furthered the slavery laws by expanding slave system to their children and extending it for a lifetime. Their population took a huge spike 1700 onwards, so much so that the black slave trade took a dive. They made the ten percent of population in North America in the beginning of eighteenth century.
Then came the time when the African slaves were outnumbered by American-born slaves and during that time American Revolution started. This episode in American history led to abolishment of slavery in the most of the Northern states of America, while the South still held fast to its slave trade laws. South Carolina had the biggest black population of all States. In fact, the state seemed like an extension of West Africa. In 1808, United States officially placed a ban on international slave trade. As their population grew, African American slaves revolted against the slavery laws. In 1739, the biggest rebellion was seen in South Carolina, the Stono Uprising. The black slaves outnumbered white citizens by far and thus they decided to revolt against them by means of violence. They seized their weapons and attacked whites, killing twenty civilians which then resulted in counter attack killing most of these rebels.
The second half of the eighteenth century is marked by severe political upheaval disrupting the peace in the United States. While Americans demanded freedom from British colonial power, African Americans also demanded their right to freedom. Thomas Jefferson came up with the historical document known as the Declaration of Independence. The document emphasized human right to personal freedom and equality which was ironic given the fact that Jefferson himself owned 200 slaves. For political gain, the Congress did consider freeing the slaves but couldn’t see through it. One of the free blacks who founded Prince Hall Freemasonry filed petition to free slave but only to have it fallen on deaf ears. Yet, African American did not relinquish the patriotic spirit taking part in the American Revolution. They fought side by side with whites in a number of battles, including Bunker Hill, the battles of Lexington and Concord and the Boston Massacre. Afterwards, black slaves’ participation in the war was barred by George Washington when he came to power.
In the nineteenth century a handful of blacks joined Christian Church which was segregated from whites. The first community institution established by African Americans was the Black church. It was a sort of their sanctuary, a place where they could practice their beliefs without any intrusion from white communities. This all led to the advent of Afro-Christianity which is known in the African-American history as the Second Great Awakening.
Mid-nineteenth century was the time when some white political, scholarly and religious figures stood up for African American’s right to freedom. A campaign was started against slavery highlighting the cruelties and atrocities faced by the blacks. The antislavery movement was stronger in the North as the American abolitionist like Harriet Beecher Stowe illustrated the tragedy of a black slave, being treated less than a human in her highly acclaimed American fiction, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The popularity of the novel would consolidate the support of Northern American against slavery.
There were a series of episodes demonstrating horrific brutality and injustices against African Americans in the history. However, they braved through the most difficult of times through mutual help and support. Eventually the day came when the Emancipation Proclamation was declared. President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order on January 1, 1863, abolishing the slavery once and for all. In a single bound Lincoln altered the landscape of African American history by freeing three million slaves outside of Confederate government. This decision was followed by 1866 Civil Rights Act which rendered blacks, citizens of United States and then the 14th amendment granted full U.S. citizenship to African-Americans. And in order to permeate the sense of equality the male black citizens were given the right to vote ratified in the 15th amendment in 1870. Henceforth, the African Americans were given posts in high-ranked political, military, educational spots if not as many as it takes to claim it just. However, it took years to implement these laws in the South which refused to consider blacks as anything more than servants. The twenty-first century brought African Americans a dawn of new age when the entire United States elected a black President, Barack Obama, twice.