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Article

Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Hamburg, Germany, Ottilie Assing was the eldest daughter of David and Rosa Maria (Varnhagen) Assing. Her mother was an energetic teacher with a flair for singing and storytelling; her father was a well-known doctor who penned poetry and was prone to depression. David, born with the surname of Assur, was raised as an Orthodox Jew but associated with Christians. He and Rosa, who was not Jewish, raised Ottilie and her younger sister, Ludmilla, as "freethinking atheists, as true daughters of the Enlightenment, who saw themselves as members of a universal human race of thought and reason." They saw education as a "secular form of individual salvation."

Assing's life was not always easy; she witnessed savage anti-Jewish riots, and by the age of twenty-three she had lost both parents. In 1842 she and her sister moved from their hometown to live with an uncle Ludmilla adapted ...

Article

The black women's movement in Latin America and the Caribbean has been deeply marked by the region's political, social, and cultural diversity. The countries of this region share a common past of colonial rule maintained during four centuries on the basis of exterminating large indigenous populations and enslaving an estimated 10 to 15 million Africans.

Black women have played a key role in the history of their peoples and in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean. Throughout the colonial period until the present, they have preserved African values. Black women have been responsible for the survival and re-creation of African cultures and religious practices. These cultures and practices have offered different models of life and death, the feminine and the masculine, nature, and divinity. Black women also fought against slavery.

After the abolition of slavery the great majority of black women remained domestic workers and farm workers This ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Although residential segregation is often considered one of the more harmful effects of racism in the United States, some African Americans in the nineteenth century chose to form their own racially separate communities. Unlike the ghettos and rural enclaves where many blacks were forced to live at the time, black towns were established to promote economic independence, self-government, and social equality for African Americans. More than eighty such towns were settled in the fifty years following the Civil War.

A few, such as New Philadelphia, Illinois, were formed even before the Civil War, but it was not until after Emancipation in the United States that the population of free blacks was large enough to supply settlers for the new towns. The first great wave of black migration began as Reconstruction ended in 1877 When federal troops withdrew from the South many blacks feared that the civil and political ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

African American activists in the antebellum and post–Civil War eras invoked a language and political strategy of black uplift or elevation. Composed of ideas and actions about physical, mental, or intellectual and personal morality and the realm of the soul, black activists, through speech and literature, used uplift as a general program to improve the race. Uplift was also intended to refute white racism prevalent in the literature and public activities of the nineteenth century. Accordingly, two key components were respectability and self-help. Frederick Douglass for one noted that only racism kept the avenues of wealth and honor from being open to all who chose to enter them Respectability and wealth were not just accessories to wealth and fame but required individual action particularly virtuous assistance to the race or against slavery as well as a purer soul Blacks also shared the general anxiety over confidence men or tricksters ...

Article

Brixton  

Cecily Jones

South London suburb that has been home since the 1940s to thousands of African Caribbean immigrants whose presence has contributed to the making of an energetic and multicultural melting pot in the United Kingdom Like one of its main roads Electric Avenue so named because it was the first ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

activist, educator, and daughter of the first named plaintiff in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court school integration case, Brown v. Board of Education, was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Leola Brown (later Montgomery) and the Reverend Oliver Leon Brown. Oliver Brown, the lead plaintiff of twelve African American parents in Brown was an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and boxcar welder for the Santa Fe Railroad The couple had two younger daughters Cheryl married surname Henderson and Terry married surname Tyler Although the Browns lived in a multiracial working class neighborhood Linda soon encountered segregation Her white friends attended Sumner Grade School seven blocks away She was forced to attend Monroe over a mile away She had to walk through a dangerous railway yard then catch a bus with a long wandering itinerary If the bus arrived too early it left the students outside ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

William Owen Bush was born in Clay County, Missouri, on July 4, 1832. He was the oldest son of George Washington Bush and Isabella James, born in Tennessee of German ancestry. The Bush family left Missouri in 1844 for the Oregon Territory. In 1845 the family settled in what became known as Bush Prairie, a few miles south of present-day Olympia, Washington. George Bush won esteem there as a progressive, innovative, and generous farmer. William Bush married Mandana Smith Kimsey on May 26, 1859, in Marion County, Oregon. Mandana was the daughter of Dr. J. Smith and Nancy Scott Wisdom Smith, and the widow (1858) of Duff Kimsey, who had been born in Howard County, Missouri, on June 1, 1826. She had crossed to Oregon with her husband and parents in 1847 William and Mandana had three children George O ...

Article

Matthew Dennis

The inescapable culmination of life is mortality, and every community must deal with the death of its members, marking the event appropriately, disposing respectfully of mortal remains, offering condolence to the living, and returning life among survivors to normal. Few human communities have faced greater challenges in this regard than those African Americans enslaved in North America, as well as free blacks, during the colonial and early national periods. African American mortuary practices preserved, synthesized, and reworked African traditions and adapted New World customs imported to America by white European Christian colonists.

There is much about which we cannot be certain given the limited records and archaeological evidence available to us and considerable diversity characterized the people of African descent throughout North America during this era But it is clear that African American funerals and interments were creative hybrid practices expressions of African American culture that signaled the worth and ...

Article

Caryn E. Neumann

 Childhood is the time when identity is formed. In the modern sense, childhood has not always existed. The invention of childhood entailed the creation of a protracted period in which the child would ideally be protected from the difficulties and responsibilities of daily life—including the need to work. In this respect, slave and working-class children did not have much of a childhood since they were obliged to work and did not have years to devote to play and study. By the 1890s, the end of slavery and the growth of an African American middle class created the opportunity for African American children to engage in the activities that define childhood in modern America.

The history of how African Americans experienced childhood in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries cannot be separated from the legacy of slavery While the children were not slaves they had parents and grandparents with life views ...

Article

Marian Wright Edelman

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to “Leave No Child Behind.” It seeks to ensure that every child is given a “Healthy Start,” a “Head Start,” a “Fair Start,” a “Safe Start,” and a “Moral Start” in life as well as a successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves, but it pays particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown.

Article

Class  

Melissa N. Stein

While class has been a driving force in American history it has been particularly central to the story of both racism and African American life Throughout its history America developed a racialized class system by which African Americans were often shut out of venues of political and economic power regardless of individual circumstances Race and class have been virtually inseparable in America from its inception Furthermore as the black middle and upper classes grew following Emancipation so too did tensions among African Americans across class lines Thus the story of class for African Americans is one of blacks as a racialized class and one of class divisions among blacks Undeniably there have been instances in American history when blacks and whites have come together to protest shared economic exploitation and African Americans of different classes have fought side by side against institutional or structural racism However these fleeting moments of ...

Article

Jennifer Reed Fry

politician, clubwoman, and welfare worker, was born in the Piedmont region of Virginia to Frances Dearing in approximately 1879. During her youth, the Dearing family moved to Harrisburg, where Maud was educated in the Harrisburg school system. Later in life she attended the University of Pennsylvania. On 5 September 1897Maude B. Dearing married John W. Coleman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They had one child, Priscilla Coleman, who died in infancy.

Throughout her adult life, Coleman was a driving force in Harrisburg's African American community. During World War I she worked tirelessly in support of African American troops and received a commendation from General Cornelius Vanderbilt for her service. This success in community organizing encouraged Coleman to become a founding member of the Phyllis Wheatley Colored Harrisburg Branch of the Young Women's Christian Association in 1920 Coleman participated in and led a variety of social ...

Article

Kristal L. Enter

possibly the first African American Eagle Scout, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after his birth he moved with his family to Waterloo, Iowa. Waterloo was home to African Americans who, around the World War I era, fled the Jim Crow laws and limited economic opportunities of the Deep South to work in railroad, meatpacking, and manufacturing industries in Iowa, which was also the location of an early branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), established in 1921. Cunningham later married Susie Ann Rockett on 14 September 1931, and together they had five children.

Cunningham was quite possibly the first African American to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest and most prestigious rank awarded by the Boys Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America was established in 1910 as an organization to help young men develop their ...

Article

Lois Rita Helmbold

The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s greatly increased the burden on many black women across the United States. Their triple responsibilities of holding down a job, caring for families and friends, and organizing to build communities and to fight for rights as citizens were more difficult than ever to fulfill. While hard times were hardly new to most black women, what was new was the severity of the Depression and the fact that people at the bottom of the economy found that their old ways of coping with hard times were obsolete. As one unemployed woman noted, “You can’t get no more job like you used to. I used to have a new job before I was let out from the old.”

While the Depression devastated the economy of the United States its local effects largely depended on the particular circumstances of individual communities At the time of the ...

Article

William C. Hine

Edelman was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, one of five children of Arthur Jerome Wright and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright. She was named in honor of the singer Marian Anderson. Her father was the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, and her mother was the choir director and organist.

After graduation from all-black Marlboro Training High School, she enrolled at Atlanta’s Spelman College, where she intended to major in music. She changed her major to history after coming under the influence of the historian Howard Zinn and of President Benjamin E. Mays of Morehouse College. As an undergraduate she joined thousands of black high school and college students in the burgeoning civil rights movement. She was among several hundred people arrested at sit-ins in Atlanta in March 1960. She graduated from Spelman in 1960 and planned to pursue a scholarly career in Russian and Soviet studies But ...

Article

Family  

Patricia E. Bonner

Controversy surrounds discussions of the black family, from critics who are alarmed at the black family's seemingly continual disintegration or from advocates who are optimistic for its healthy growth. However, most scholars agree that the state of the black family must be examined within the context of the enslavement, oppression, and continual struggles of African Americans. The historical assaults on the black family have forced African Americans to invent survival mechanisms to keep their families or sense of family intact.

The impact of the oppression of African Americans on their situation in the twenty-first century is still a point of debate. The most influential studies, by scholars such as Herbert Gutman, John Hope Franklin, Robert B. Hill, Andrew Billingsley, Robert Staples, Leanor Boulin Johnson, Charles V. Willie, K. Sue Jewell, and Richard Reddick indicate that the black family has been damaged ...

Article

Michael Dash

Joseph Antenor Firmin was born in 1850 in the town of Cap Haitien in the north of Haiti. He was a lawyer, a minister of government, and a diplomat. Haitian politics in the late nineteenth century were dominated by two major groups: the nationalist and liberal parties. These parties representing black and mulatto factions fought for supremacy in the 1870s and 1880s. The nationalist party championed a black ideology and claimed to speak on behalf of the masses against the elite. The liberal party played down the color question and advocated that Haiti be governed by the most competent. Firmin is particularly interesting because he was black and associated himself with the liberal party. He was a liberal candidate for the legislature in 1879. In 1889 he became a cabinet minister under President Florvil Hyppolite and as foreign minister he worked with Frederick Douglass to foil ...

Primary Source

The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, frequently served as a meeting place for civil rights activists, Martin Luther King, Jr. among them. Birmingham had become a hub of civil rights activities, and the church on 16th Street was at its center. On 15 September 1963, a bomb exploded in the basement of the church while Sunday school was in session. Twenty-two were wounded, and four young girls were killed: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson. Collins, Robertson, and Wesley were fourteen years old, McNair just eleven. Their deaths were unfortunately not the last caused by this act of terrorism—in the violence and chaos following the blast, two more young people were killed when, as reported by the Washington Post t housands of hysterical Negroes poured into the area around the church this morning and police fought for two hours firing rifles into the ...

Article

Evan Haefeli

African Americans were present in French Canada from the earliest days of settlement, albeit in small numbers. At least two worked in French Acadia (now Nova Scotia) as early as 1606 and 1608. The first African known to have arrived directly from Africa was a boy who took the name Olivier Le Jeune (c. 1620–1654). He had been taken by Englishmen from Madagascar and carried to Canada with a small expedition that conquered Quebec in 1629. When the French regained Canada by treaty in 1632, Olivier's master left him behind. The Jesuit missionary Paul Le Jeune converted Olivier. When the Jesuit told Olivier that Christianity united all men equally, Olivier replied, “You say that by baptism I shall be like you: I am black and you are white, I must have my skin taken off then in order to be like you.”

Olivier Le Jeune ...