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Article

Qrescent Mali Mason

Adoption traditionally refers to the legal act of permanently placing a child under the age of eighteen with a family other than the child's birth parents. Often, in the United States, these children are taken from the foster care system. There are various obstacles to the adoption of foster children, specifically black children. Among them is the lack of communication between foster care and adoption agencies, the fact that there are fewer black social workers than there are black foster children, and the understaffing of foster care agencies.

Difficulties in the foster care system affect the growth and decline of adoption rates. For example, in 1967 a study conducted in Washington, D.C., concluded that it was harder for black women to give their children up for adoption than white women because many of the women were young and lived in low-income neighborhoods. Between 1969 and 1971 the United Black ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

Africa has meant many different things to many different people. The word “Africa” may have come from a Greek word meaning “without cold” or from a Latin reference to the “land of the Afri,” probably a Berber tribe. There is also a similar Latin word meaning “warm.” Whatever the origin of the word itself, “Africa” has certain meanings for African Americans and other meanings for white Americans. Within each of these groups, of course, there are many subdivisions, ranging along the entire spectrum of political and cultural opinions.

For some time, it was common for Europeans and white Americans to refer to Africa as the Dark Continent, with a derogatory connotation. The word “Africa” carried with it the meaning of lack of civilization, intellect, and sophistication. As Dorothy Hammond and Alta Jablow observe in The Myth of Africa the West defined Africa as that which the West was not ...

Article

In revisiting the history of Belize, Shoman observes that on the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation of 1888, White-Creoles chose to reenact the battle of St. George's Caye. While condemning the African slave workers’ riot of 1894, which attempted to disrupt the order of things in the settlement, Woods had surmised in his Clarion tabloid that:

What a lesson in loyalty and confidence it would constantly be to those very people if their minds turned back vividly to that September day (of 1798) at St. George's Caye when the sturdy Baymen masters and slaves (emphasis added) willingly stood forth shoulder to shoulder to shed their blood to defend the government and protect those they served

(Shoman: 120).

Present day Belize is bounded on the north by Mexico the west and south by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea An ongoing border ...

Article

Peter A. Kuryla

An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal's study of race relations in the United States, had remarkable influence after it appeared in 1944. The Supreme Court, for example, cited Myrdal's work with approval in the 1954Brown v. Board of Education decision. Within the national government, social engineers crafted ameliorative, race-based policy from Dilemma's prescriptions. For decades American liberals found its optimism congenial to much of their thinking. The word “dilemma” became linguistic coin of the realm, a liberal shorthand for America whenever cast in racial relief. The study helped create what many scholars came to call a “liberal orthodoxy” on race among social scientists, a perspective that dominated American social thought from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s.

The Carnegie Foundation sponsored and funded the study The original proposal for a comprehensive study of the ...

Article

Margaret Wade-Lewis

the first African American female linguist, early theorist in Pidgin and Creole linguistics, and educator, was born Beryl Isadore Loftman in Black River, Jamaica, West Indies. Her mother, Eliza Isadore Smith Loftman, was a teacher, and her father, James Henry Loftman, was an educator who became an inspector of schools. Because she was of the middle class, Beryl Loftman was expected to converse in Standard Jamaican English. Nevertheless, she valued the rhythm, music, and style of Creole: “Though I was forbidden to speak Jamaican Creole in the home during my childhood, my use of Standard Jamaican English was restricted to the earshot of my parents, teachers. … With my playmates, brothers and sisters, household help, and the country folk, I conversed always in Creole” (Bailey, “Creole Languages,” 3).

Loftman was the eldest of six children and she and her siblings Lucille Myrtle Kenneth Seymour and Howard who died ...

Article

Charles Orson Cook

African “Pygmy” who was put on display at the Bronx Zoo. In 1904, the white missionary Samuel Phillips Verner brought Ota Benga whose freedom he had purchased with a bribe to Belgian Congo officials and seven other Congolese Pygmies to the Saint Louis World s Fair as part of an ethnological exhibit of primitive peoples which included among others the Native American Apache chief Geronimo Verner s agreement with the World s Fair required him to bring several Africans and as much of their village intact as possible He actually brought fewer tribesmen than his contract required and many fewer artifacts but the exhibit was one of the most popular attractions at the fair The Africans were the objects of constant public attention and they also drew the interest of professional and academic ethnologists who measured the physical and mental characteristics of the Pygmies concluding that they were ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

Since its highly publicized, successful, and controversial opening in 1915, the twelve-reel, feature-length D. W. Griffith film The Birth of a Nation has presented enduring questions of how to deal with a filmic work of art that is so bad because it is so good, so dangerous because it is so convincing. Seemingly able to inform and sway audiences on its historic topic—the South in the Civil War of 1861–1865 and the period of Reconstruction that followed—The Birth of a Nation has reached millions of people with a particular slant on race relations and American history, a bias difficult to access and more difficult still to eradicate.

Article

We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you.

Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He

wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with

each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He

will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.

(Surat al-Maʾida, 48, Qurʾān)

African American history is deeply influenced by the brutality of slavery and the dogma of religion The European practice of enslaving Africans into forced labor was normalized for more than three centuries While the first African slaves were transported from Europe economic demand required that slaves be shipped in directly from Africa This practice was so pervasive that about 11 to 12 million Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade These millions were then subjected to ...

Article

Charles L. Lumpkins

Founded in 1971, the Black Workers Congress (BWC), an African American organization of primarily industrial workers, called on working people, especially black and other nonwhite workers, to solve their shop-floor issues by taking matters into their own hands rather than waiting for union officials and managers to make decisions. The BWC aimed to steer black workers and the labor movement in a militant and radical direction. The congress, which also had Hispanic American, Asian American, and Native American affiliates, announced its long-term mission to achieve workers’ control of factories, offices, and other worksites; an end to workplace exploitation; and the establishment of a society that values human rights above property rights.

The BWC had its roots in the revolutionary union movements (RUMs), centering on black auto workers in late-1960s Detroit, Michigan. Some of the founders and early leaders of the BWC, including John Watson and General Gordon Baker Jr ...

Article

Amritjit Singh

Black-Jewish relations represent a richly layered chapter in twentieth-century U.S. history and, depending upon the area of activity or the time period involved, convey distinctive lessons not just for Jews or blacks but for all Americans with commitments to fair play, social justice, and human rights at home and abroad. The active engagement of Jewish Americans in civil rights struggles on behalf of blacks—from the establishment of the NAACP in 1909 to the freedom riders and other civil rights events and actions in the 1960s—is an inspiring narrative of interethnic cooperation.

At the same time the participation of blacks and Jews in the labor movement and the Communist Party USA during the 1930s and 1940s has since the 1960s produced multiple ambivalent readings of motive and attitudes on both sides And at least since the 1990s an exasperating level of open conflict and ugliness has emerged between the two groups ...

Article

Zada Johnson

Located on Chicago’s South Side, the historic Bronzeville community formed as a result of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities. The name Bronzeville was coined by news editor James Gentry in his Mayor of Bronzeville promotions for the Chicago Bee and later The Chicago Defender. In their landmark sociological study Black Metropolis St Clair Drake and Horace Cayton discuss the way that African American migrants employed the term Bronzeville as an alternative to the negative connotation of terms like Black Ghetto and Black Belt that were used to describe their community In its heyday Bronzeville was a center of African American cultural expression in Chicago In addition financial magnates served as home to a host of writers musicians athletes visual artists activists and scholars Like many other urban centers during the mid twentieth century Bronzeville would feel the devastating effects of disinvestment ...

Article

Scott Yanow

was born in San Francisco, California, the son of a Choctaw and African American father and a Japanese mother. Due to his father being in the army, Brown grew up all around the world at various army bases.

His older brother Mike Brown (who later was a bassist with Bo Diddley) played guitar as a teenager. He taught his ten-year-old sibling chords on the guitar and how to play the blues. However Anthony Brown switched to drums in junior high after seeing his brother’s band because the drummer seemed to be having the most fun. Brown earned his Bachelor’s degrees in Music and Psychology at the University of Oregon, and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Ethnomusicology at the University Of California, Berkeley.

He made his recording debut in 1979 with pianist Jon Jang From the start of his career Brown was always interested in combining compositional approaches and ...

Article

Class  

Graham Russell Hodges

Class as a factor in the lives of African Americans in the twentieth century created mixed reactions. In a society that in some ways generally regards itself as classless, many Americans regard economic inequality as a social problem that needs fixing—through government programs or, preferably, individual initiative. For African Americans, the massive impact of race and racism seemed to render all blacks victims of white prejudice. W. E. B. Du Bois's dictum that the color line would be the major problem of the twentieth century had the effect of underscoring that African Americans were behind a racial veil apart from white Americans: material conditions made this analysis convincing. Until the late twentieth century, few African Americans could be described as wealthy, and fewer owned the means of production.

By the early twenty first century for the first time there were significant numbers of blacks with money and power In addition ...

Article

Kevin D. Roberts

The demographics of African Americans fluctuated greatly from the era of segregation to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Factors with a particular impact on African Americans—such as segregation and limited work opportunities in the South—as well as tumultuous events that affected all Americans—such as the two world wars—exerted significant force on the demographic structure of the African American population in the United States. Age, infant mortality rates, regional location, social stratification, income, and education were all affected by the wholesale changes of the period.

Article

Detroit  

Tyronne Tillery

The year 1900 marked a turning point in the history of Detroit and in the character of its growth. By the turn of the century, its commercial and trade preeminence had been replaced by dynamic industrial growth anchored in the automobile industry. Detroiters long before Michigan achieved statehood in 1837 African Americans were affected by these changes The romantic recollections of a city where African American teachers taught black and white children in the same public schools and the races lived worked and played together were quickly giving way to the twentieth century reality of northern racial castes Racial attitudes ranging from simple ethnocentrism to hate based philosophies of racial superiority fed institutional discrimination limiting black opportunities in employment housing education and public accommodations Waves of non Anglo Saxon European immigrants seeking to share in American social and economic mobility made the most of the growing obsession with race ...

Article

Wesley Borucki and Joseph Wilson

[This entry contains two subentries, on the riots of 1943 and 1967.]

Article

Phillip Luke Sinitiere

As part of an extended trip to Europe and the Mediterranean world, Frederick Douglass visited Egypt in 1886. Though his time in Africa was short, Douglass often thought, wrote, and spoke about the importance of Africa to blacks in nineteenth-century America. As shaped by nineteenth-century American Christianity, Romanticism, the Enlightenment, and scientific inquiry, Douglass's thoughts about and relation to Africa were filtered primarily through ethnology. In a July 1854 address at Western Reserve College in Ohio, "The Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered," Douglass displayed some of his most important thoughts on the relationship between culture, race, and black American identity with Africa.

Douglass summarized two major nineteenth-century theories surrounding race and human origins: Polygenesis, championed by the American ethnologist Samuel G. Morton, posited that races originated separately and thus formed separate species. Monogenesis, supported by the British physician Robert Gordon Latham espoused a unitary origin of ...

Article

Patricia E. Bonner

Formerly, the term “elderly” conventionally distinguished the subgroups of the older population as the “young old” (ages sixty-five to seventy-four); the “old old” (ages seventy-five to eighty-four); and the “oldest of the old” (ages eighty-five and above). However, by the early twenty-first century the older population had clearly changed in character, and the newer terms used to distinguish the elderly reflected that. In the early twenty-first century there were many people in their sixties and seventies who were healthy and active, and they were sometimes known as the “well-derly” group. On the other hand, because people were living longer, they often lived into their eighties and beyond, and many in this group were known as the “ill-derly.” The growth of this older population in America was projected to accelerate after about 2015 Even with the disparities in life expectancy among ethnic groups the numbers of old people in each ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

painter, printmaker, and illustrator, was born in Gardens Corner, South Carolina, the second of seven children of Ruth J. Green (a home manager) and Melvin Green (occupation unknown). Green is possibly the first person of Gullah descent to train at a professional art school. The Gullah are the descendants of West African slaves who lived on and near the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.

Great things were expected of Green from the time of his birth. He was born with an inner fetal membrane covering his head and for this reason was considered a “child of the Veil” (Green). In Gullah culture the Veil marks children “touched by uncommonness and magic that will bring inordinate grace to the community.” Traveling to New York seeking employment, Green's mother left Green in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eloise Stewart Johnson Green was interested in art ...

Article

Harlem  

Marcy S. Sacks

The black presence in New York City dates back to the earliest years of Dutch colonization in the early seventeenth century. Over the generations, as the population of Manhattan increased in size, the once relatively scattered black population gradually became more concentrated within fewer geographic regions of the city. The 1800s witnessed the beginning of an uptown march, as the black population that had been centered in the working-class district of Five Points on the lower tip of the island early in the century faced residential pressures, leading it to shift its hub into modern-day Greenwich Village, then to an area known as the Tenderloin situated approximately between Twentieth and Fortieth streets. Though racial prejudice limited their housing options, black New Yorkers in the nineteenth century nevertheless lived in fairly heterogeneous working-class communities alongside ethnic whites.

The turn of the twentieth century however witnessed a precipitous growth in the black ...