Historical Progression of African Americans

History is one of the most interesting subjects since it gives people an opportunity to learn who they are and how they came to be in situations they find themselves in. History helps in reminding people of the struggle and sufferings they went through to succeed in life. One of the contributions that history has made is in outlining the historical progression of African Americans. History has documented the progression of African Americans as one of the hardest lives a person can go through. The progression of African American community has been accompanied by an unending fight by African Americans to liberate them from the oppression they are subjected to by the whites. African Americans were and still are fighting for civil rights as well as equal opportunities. Numerous civil wars erupted during the struggle. These were aimed at liberating African Americans who were being treated as slaves by their white masters (Braude, 2002, p. 18). Despite African Americans waging wars against the whites, their struggle did not appear to make any significant impact in improving their lives. Instead, they had to take over a hundred years fighting for their civil rights and equal opportunities before attaining any significant improvement in their living standards.

Progression between 1865 and 1876 after the civil war

Indeed, African Americans were found to be emancipated after the end of the civil war. However, change in their social status did not bring to an end their suffering as they still continued to be oppressed politically and economically. The period between 1865 and 1876 was seen as one of the most difficult periods in African American life. This is because it is during this period that they were greatly determined of liberating themselves. They deeply hoped to start a new life. It is also during this period that their dreams of being liberated were shuttered. At first, their progress in the struggle was found to bear fruits. The end of the civil war led to them being freed (Braude, 2002, pp. 19-34). The thirteenth amendment of the American constitution brought to end slavery in the country. African-Americans were relieved from slavery which had oppressed them for many years. In addition, the fourteenth amendment which was later ratified in 1868 gave African Americans the right to become full citizens in the country. The fifteenth amendment; which was later ratified in 1870 gave them the right to participate in a voting exercise in the country. This right was only provided for black males. Southern black men started participating in voting and were also granted positions in United States Congress as well as local offices. Alliances made of white and black republicans came up with bills that facilitated the establishment of public schools. This saw African-American children being allowed to study in public schools.

Despite the numerous changes, the progress proved to be deceptive and changes were rather ceremonial than real (Black, 2005, p. 12). The actual social status of African Americans did not consistently change according to the amendments made in the constitution. African Americans continued being oppressed by whites despite the constitution providing for their protection. Most of the rights provided to them were curtailed. For instance, the right to participate in elections was limited. Many hoaxes in the country denied them an opportunity to actively participate in making political decisions with respect to matters affecting the country. It was hard for them to get fully represented in the legislative, executive, and judicial arms of the government as they were not allowed to elect their representatives. In a bid to intimidate African Americans as well as whites who were found to sympathize with the blacks, American Government revoked the constitutional protection it had offered to African Americans. Furthermore, African-Americans were physically attacked which saw them facing extinction in the country. In 1867, a group by the name Ku Klux Klan was established to clear all the blacks in the country. The group brutally attacked the blacks. Many African-Americans were slaughtered by the gang. Its members wore masks and robes to avoid being identified by the blacks as they conducted their heinous acts against them. The group used cross burnings, lynching, and other forms of terrorism to intimidate African-Americans (Black, 2005, p. 17).

Actions from the group led to the establishment of laws that proscribed it in 1871. This led to sentiments against African American freedom going underground momentarily. Violence was reported to erupt in various regions despite the law. This was especially after Louisiana’s election in 1872. The disputed election led to Coushatta and Colfax massacres in Louisiana in 1873 and 1874 (Black, 2005, p. 21). Racial terrorism was found to target greatly the African-Americans who were reported to be killed in large numbers than European Americans. The movement that was against the freedom granted to African-Americans continued growing stronger as time went on. Eventually, it led to the establishment of various racist groups such as the White League as well as the formation of white militia groups which were made of representatives from various racial terrorist groups.

African American discrimination in 1877-1920

Within the period between 1877 and 1920, the situation in the country had not improved for the better. African-Americans were still being killed while others were still discriminated against by the whites. From 1890 to 1908, ten states out of the eleven states in the south came up with new constitutions as well as making various amendments in their previous constitutions that significantly denied most of the African Americans and the poor whites the right to participate in voting (Franklin, 2001, p. 86). This led to voter turnout among African Americans going down. In some areas, no African Americans were found to turn out for voting making the voter turnout equal to zero. This added to the inability of African Americans to be represented in the government. Since they did not participate in voting, it was hard to get African Americans vying for posts in the government.

As violence intensified in some states, many African Americans were killed while others were compelled to migrate to other states where they felt to be secure. On the other hand, the socioeconomic status of blacks in the north was poor despite the area not experiencing violence. This was because of the poor education levels among African Americans (Franklin, 2001, p. 97). As most of the African Americans had a low level of education, it was hard for them to compete with whites who were well educated. Most of them also did not qualify to vie for positions in the government. In the early twentieth century, the life of African Americans was seen to deteriorate even more. Many skilled laborers migrated from European countries making it hard for African Americans to get jobs in the country. This led to them being faced with economic hardships. To counter this, African Americans opted to form movements to fight for their rights. Du Bois and other famous African Americans secretly met at Niagara Falls. This led to the formation of the Niagara movement and other clandestine civil rights movements. Founders of these movements advocated for the termination of racial discrimination in the country. They even came up with manifestos that advocated for ending racial discrimination, recognition of human rights as well as for African Americans to be granted absolute freedom. The Springfield, Illinois rebellion against racism led to some European Americans joining the Niagara movement. Later, the movement’s name was changed to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This was in 1909. Through Bois stewardship, the movement advocated for African Americans’ representation in the legislature. It is during this period that African Americans continued to come up with autonomous communities and institutions (Goldenberg, 1999, pp. 23-32). They came up with hospitals, churches as well as schools that addressed their needs.

Civil movement contributions between 1921 and 1945

Nevertheless, between 1921 and 1945, the life of African Americans had started improving. The civil rights movement established by African Americans had started getting stronger in the country making it possible for them to air their complaints. During the 1920s most of the African Americans migrated from South to North. This resulted in their number increasing significantly in northern states. Since violence was minimal in this region, African Americans hoped to secure better jobs, escape violence, enjoy significant equality and their children get the opportunity to get an education. The increase in the black’s population in New York led to the emergence of the cultural movement referred to as Harlem Renaissance. This movement pervaded across the country proving the ability of African Americans to lending a successful life in America. Many African American scholars gathered and helped blacks in celebrating and appreciating their blackness (Goldenberg, 1999, pp. 33-47). Claude McKay, Jacob Lawrence, and Langston Hughes were some of the famous artists who supported the movement as well as other organizations that aimed at improving black’s life and advocating for African American recognition in the country. The position of African Americans was later deteriorated by the economic crisis that rocked America between 1920 and 1930. Nevertheless, the movements were credited for assisting America and its allies in emerging victorious in the Second World War. Movement leaders mobilized African Americans to work as soldiers in the war. Approximately seventy-five percent of the soldiers who participated in the fight were African Americans.

Post-World War II progression: 1946-1976

It is between 1946 and 1976 that the second group of African Americans migrated from the south to the north. Approximately five million African Americans moved from the south to different cities in the north. As most of the immigrants were skilled laborers and well-educated, they got jobs in different industries that had been established in the region (Haley, 2007, p. 125). During this period, the civil rights movement had also become mature. Most of its leaders had already acquired enough experience to run it. Some of its leaders such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were in a position to mobilize their people in fighting for their rights. They managed to stage a social resistance movement that led to whites relaxing their position against African Americans. For the first time, Blacks were given an opportunity to exercise their rights. One of their achievements was the eradication of school segregation. Initially, there were different schools for different races. African Americans were not allowed to interact with whites at school. The movement managed to get rid of this making it possible for African American children to acquire quality education. They could now study in schools that were previously being used by whites only (Haley, 2007, pp. 134-143).

African Americans were given an opportunity to get equal employment opportunities in the country. This was after the civil rights movement protested for them to be granted employment opportunities. One of their demonstrations was staged in Washington in 1963. The demonstration brought together approximately two hundred and fifty thousand protesters who demanded equal job opportunities in the country. The movement also called for the termination of racial violence which was going on in the south, police brutality as well as equal access to education. Pressure from the demonstration led to the then-president John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson resolving to come up with the civil rights act of 1964. The act prohibited discrimination in employment, labor unions, and public accommodations (Hine, Hine & Harrold, 2002, pp. 76-95).

Progression after 1976

Racial discrimination against African Americans was brought to an end. Violence against blacks was reduced. Despite this, the movement did not manage to stop Martin Luther from being assassinated in 1968. African Americans got more representation in the American political sphere. More African Americans were allowed to be elected to the legislative positions, work in the judicial system as well as get executive posts. Douglas Wilder was the first African American to be nominated as governor in the United States in 1989. African American women had been denied most of their rights. Most of the constitutional provisions did not recognize their rights in participating in matters affecting the country (Hine, Hine & Harrold, 2005, pp. 157-172). However, civil rights movements led to the development of laws that recognized women. In 1992, Carol Moseley-Braun was nominated as the first African American woman to join the Senate.


Despite the struggle by African Americans to ensure that they are accorded equal opportunity as whites in the country, even today they still appear not to have succeeded. Most of the ruling elites in the country are whites. In the past, the whites used the excuse that African Americans were not educated as to the reason why they were not elected to high positions in the country. Today, there are many African Americans who are learned but still their representation in the ruling elite is low. Most African Americans still live in shanties while the whites enjoy life in most of the luxurious suburbs. According to Forbes, the blacks have not been able to progress economically to levels the whites have reached. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, Oprah Winfrey was the only black billionaire in the world (Weiner & Knopf, 2004, pp. 234-262). Currently, blacks make up 0.25% of America’s economic leaders while they make up thirteen percent of the country’s population. Despite there being laws that prohibit segregation in schools, the current trend in schools reflects the high level of segregation that exists in the country. The percentage of non-white students in public schools exceeds ninety-nine percent implying that most of the whites do not take their children to public schools. Neglect from the American government, poor social policies, poverty, and established laws still act as some of the factors that hinder African Americans from improving their social status in America. Today, many African Americans are serving as prisoners in the country.


Black, T.D. Jr. (2005). Bridges of Memory; Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration: An Oral History. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Braude, B. (2002). The Abrahamic Attitudes toward Racism and Slavery: Is Religion Moral? Annals: History, Social Science, 22.1, pp. 18-34.

Franklin, J.H. (2001). From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. Chicago: McGraw-Hill Education.

Goldenberg, D. M. (1999). The Development of the Idea of Race: Classical Paradigms and Medieval laborations. International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 5.2, pp. 23-47.

Haley, A. (2007). Roots. New York: Vanguard Press.

Hine, D.C., Hine, C. W. & Harrold, S. (2002). The African-American Odyssey. N.J., Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Hine, D.C., Hine, C. W. & Harrold, S. (2005). Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. United States: Indiana University Press.

Weiner, M.S. & Knopf, A. A. (2004). Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste. New York: Random House.

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