African Americans in American History — Issues by Chapter

Preface                      

This book does not present African American history, but rather that part of American history whites have ignored. In 1950, the United States’ population was about ninety percent white; in the seventy years since whites have aged significantly and their birth rate has barely sustained itself. Meanwhile, an influx of immigrants, many of them people of color from Asia, Africa, and Latin America arrive on our shores. Whites are now increasing by only 1,053 individuals per day, while non-whites add 7,261 daily’ the Census Bureau projects that whites will no longer be the majority by 2045. The United States has never been a more multi-racial society, making many whites fear their loss of power

Chapter One              Race, White Supremacy and Racism: America’s “Original Sins?”

The notion of “race,” just over 500 years old, “justified” the enslavement of Africans for life based on a false premise of white superiority. Ironically, England peopled her North American colonies with what Anglican priest and poet John Donne called “effluvia” — criminals, pimps, prostitutes, and London street urchins. TMostwere hardly descendants of “cavaliers” as those in the “first families of Virginia” suggest.

Chapter Two             Slavery: America’s “Peculiar Institution”    

Slavery was hardly a new institution, but had not necessarily been a life-long condition.  Originally, slavery existed in all thirteen colonies, but it was abolished in the North before the Civil War. American slavery was unusually harsh, considering slaves “property” (chattel), not recognizing slave families,  and separating mothers and fathers, along with their children. Incredibly profitable, there is no doubt that slavery was the proximate cause of the Civil War.

Chapter Three           United States Colored Troops

Although many blacks came forward to fight for the Union at the war’s start, they were forbidden to serve. The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 finally authorized black soldiers. Blacks were already serving in the navy. About 200,000 blacks enlisted in the army, filling 175 regiments, at a time sources of recruitment had dried up on both sides. US Colored Troops’ valor was crucial to ending the war a year and a half later.                  

Chapter Four            Black Soldiers in Gray and Butternut

In the 1970’s, bogus claims of black Confederates in uniform began, part of white resistance to civil rights. Both sides made extensive use of black labor troops and masters took slaves to the field to serve as orderlies, cooks, and teamsters. When one of the best Confederate generals in the west suggested recruitment of blacks in January 1864, he was accused of treason. Violent debate raged across the Confederacy until March 1865 even though it was clear that black manpower was necessary to avoid defeat. Blacks’ service was approved only three weeks before Appomattox and a minimal number of blacks entered the ranks.

Chapter Five              The Devastation of the Confederacy

Most of the war was fought on Southern territory, leaving major cities and whole regions devastated. Both slavery and the economic system it supported were eliminated. Many Southern leaders were barred from office, hatred of Yankees was magnified, and murder of former slaves was common.

Chapter Six                Emancipation and Reconstruction

The proclamation applied only to slaves in Confederate territory, not to those in the Border States. Only the Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, ended the institution completely. This was followed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth, which extended citizenship to blacks and the right to vote, respectively. Both were resisted by Southerners, who used the presidential election of 1876 to overturn Reconstruction and remove Federal troops.

Chapter Seven           The Freedmen’s Bureau      

America’s first social service agency was run by the US army; never more than a thousand officers spread across eleven Southern states. Initially, the bureau provided disaster relief (one-third of food rations went to whites), and assisted former slaves with employment contracts so they could take their place in society. Its greatest success was bringing public education to both whites and blacks in the South.

Chapter Eight            “The Lost Cause” and “Redemption”      

From the last shot, the South developed an alternate version of the war, first by Edward Pollard, war-time editor of Richmond’s main paper, who penned a thousand-word account describing slaves as “servants” and slave patrols as a voluntary police force. Confederate generals and others added to the narrative, but it was not until the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy made their contributions in the 1890s that the myth that the war was over states’ rights was completed. “Redemption” was the violent seizure of power from Republicans and black majorities by the KKK, numerous other organizations, and white mobs for the Democrats.       

Chapter Nine             Buffalo Soldiers

Congress authorized six, later four, black regular army regiments in 1866 due to the record compiled by US Colored Troops. The four regiments were one fifth of the Indian fighting force that won the West. They also distinguished themselves during the Spanish American War and in the Philippines. The last regiment fought as a segregated unit in Korea. Despite Truman’s 1948 order desegregating the armed forces, this did not occur until the Vietnam war in the 1960s.

Company E, 10th Cavalry Regiment

Chapter Ten              Jim Crow: Race Laws, Segregation and Miscegenation

Jim Crow is the label applied to the South’s progressively more oppressive racial segregation and anti-miscegenation laws beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the 1960s. These laws and associated social system collectively made blacks second-class citizens based on the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” ruling, leaving blacks at the bottom of society with demonstrably inferior facilities.                         

Chapter Eleven         World War I and the Great Migration

93rd Division Croix de Guerre Recipients

Half a million blacks served in the army, mostly in logistics units. Due to African Americans’ insistence, two black divisions were organized. The 92nd Infantry consisted of draftees organized into four infantry regiments with support (artillery, machine gun, logistics) units. The 93rd, mostly National Guard troops, with a regiment of draftees, had no support units. The 93rd was detailed to the French army, which integrated them into their divisions. Treated like men, they fought ferociously and won many awards for valor. The 92nd remained in the rear, maligned by white troops, but came through when finally committed to battle.

The Great Migration began during the war, as numerous blacks moved to the north and west for opportunities in war industry,.        

Chapter Twelve         World War II; the Migration Continued

Blacks with 12th Armored Division Guarding German POWs

Roughly one million blacks served, principally in logistics units. Both combat divisions were reactivated; the 92nd fought in Italy, while the 93rd deployed to the Pacific. An independent Buffalo Soldier regiment, the 24th Infantry, also fought against the Japanese. After the war, it became part of a white division in Japan, the first to arrive in Korea. It was disbanded after that war.

By the end of WW II, nearly half of African Americans lived in the North or West.

Chapter Thirteen      The Civil Rights Era (1954 – 1980): Redeeming the Soul of America    

Black leaders constantly struggled against white oppression ever before the modern civil rights movement. Although Rev. Martin Luther King’s nonviolent movement was the death knell for Jim Crow, white back lash was fierce. Ultimately, little changed — substandard housing, second-class education opportunities, insufficient jobs, and lack of decent grocery stores still haunt blacks. The army was not  integrated until the Vietnam war, despite Truman’s 1948 directive.

Chapter Fourteen     Make America Hate Again

The gains of the civil rights era elicited “dog whistle” politics, wherein Nixon and Reagan advocated “law and order,” tough measures against drug use. Whites; and blacks’ drug use is identical. Inner city ghettoes became “schools of crime,” causing the United States to incarcerate more citizens than any other country. The prison population,  2.2 million, half a million more citizens than China, with four times our population, costs 80 billion dollars a year. Trump’s four years in office and claim to have lost the 2020 election via fraud resulted in an assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 by tens of thousands of disgruntled supporters bent on overturning the results of the Electoral College. America is as divided now as before the Civil War.                  

Chapter Fifteen         Conclusions: Whither America?

Racism has to be taught, and no where else is it taught as relentlessly as in the USA. Nearly a quarter of our population – black and Latino – grow up with vastly diminished possibilities when we need “all hands on deck” to compete in the international arena. Trump’s administration proved just how fragile our democracy is. To fulfill our potential, we must purge all remnants of our racist past, a tall order that can succeed only with full awareness of that past.

Appendix One:          UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent Report

The UN group’s twenty-two page report summarizes the delegation’s January 19 – 29 2016 visit, providing a vivid description of the racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance African Americans face in their everyday lives. Programmatic and social issues are described, along with the group’s 36 recommendations for improvement.

Appendix Two:          Lynching Shadrack Thompson, 1932

Although Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd signed legislation making lynching illegal in 1928, four years later a black man, allegedly “found” hanged, was incinerated in Northern Virginia. His body parts and pieces of rope were taken as souvenirs and his head was displayed in the medical examiner’s office.                            

Appendix Three        Distinguished African Americans (includes a link to approximately 5,500 entries in Oxford’s African American National Biography)

Descriptions of  about 180 African Americans who made major contributions in a wide range of endeavors, ranging from the inventors of the elevator and electric brakes are provided, along with leaders in literature, poetry, music, sports, and many other fields

Appendix Four          Black General and Flag-Rank Officers

Since the armed forces were integrated only during the Vietnam war, the achievements of  these 400 black flag-rank officers is truly incredible. Colin Powell was just the tip of the spear, which now includes General Charles Q.  Brown, Jr. Air Force Chief of Staff, and Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of Defense.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris

Appendix Five           Police Shootings Involving Unarmed Black Youth

As early as 1945, Karl Myrdal, a Nobel Prize researcher, observed: “the killing of Negroes by police is high in many Northern cities.” The continual series of deaths that unarmed blacks suffer at the hand of police nationwide gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. Six miscarriages of the judicial system and more than sixty incidents of death by cop are described in the appendix.

Bibliography             

Annotated by chapter, first books, next periodical and website articles, and lastly audio-visual resources.

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Gene Betit

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