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United States History and African American Movements


The first residents of what is now the United States emigrated from Asia prior to 15,000 years ago by crossing Beringia into Alaska. Archaeological studies confirm that the forefathers of the Native Americans entered the land about 14,000 years back in time. In the US, slavery remained a lawful activity. It was until the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was passed that the activity became illegal. Areas where there was fertile ground for huge commercial farming such as sugar, coffee and cotton experienced a booming slave trade as many slaves were taken in large numbers.

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It was believed that under the watchful eye of the overseers, this large group of slaves would greatly increase their productivity. Traders were responsible for the majority of the slaves that moved west. A marginal group moved with an on-hand proprietor and their relation. In most cases, the slave traders would not transport the whole family. However, they were keen to ensure gender equality so that steady labor could be ensured.

This paper will seek to understand, the rise of the different movements that fought for African American emancipation, the government’s reaction and action towards them and what is been done to uphold the achievements accomplished so far.

The rise of the “New Negro” in the 1920s and difference from the later generation that sparked the civil rights movement

The word Negro was used on Black people in America in the late 1960s. This changed but there was the worldwide classification of people according to their ethical background and race. ‘Negro’ is a term now taken as derogative and offensive. Almost 100 years later, and the word still sparks public outbursts. It is a word that many African Americans associate with segregation, and when it featured on the American census form, many African Americans were left wondering if the Census Bureau was being insensitive (Sloan, 2010). The United States Census Bureau countered in its defense by stating that Negro was included on the 2010 United States Census, alongside “Black” and “African-American,” concerning the older black American generation who prefer to be referred to as ‘negro’. The “New Negro” movement was formed and operated in the 1920s.

African American boxers moved to France during the early 1900s as they saw a window into the transnational struggle over terms of race and modernity. This was mainly due to the pervasive racial segregation in the U.S. and especially in boxing. Sam McVea and Jack Johnson who was a world champion went overseas to France. The two were Black American heavyweights and left in search of better opportunities for fame, fortune, and personal freedom. In France, they found unconditional acceptance that was accompanied by financial success, engraving the myth that the French were color blind, a circulation then-popular amongst the black community in the United States. Certainly, race played an integral part in the formulation of popularity for black American boxers based in Paris. These men inspired French sports enthusiasts to reflect on their own views on race, manhood and civilization. Although not explicitly, the black boxers transformed the image of the negro which challenged the dominating ideology of white supremacy. This position was further echoed by the “black intellectuals and artists who, during the negritude and the Harlem Renaissance movements” (Runstedtler, 2009), pushed for a transformation of the personification of the Negro. Throughout this time, African Americans freely identified themselves as Negros with the New Negro including the Negro masses and especially the young.

A civil rights movement seeks to fight for the rights of those people it feels are being oppressed

For the period of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, African American leaders in the United States voiced their opposition to the use of the word ‘negro’, they in its place they advocated for the use of the term, ‘Black’. They felt ‘Negro’ reminded the people they represented of a history of enslavement, mistreatment, and discrimination that made African Americans feel like second-class citizens, or worse. In the 1960s, Negro was considered to be an ethnic slur as White Americans derogatively called African Americans this.

In 1957, civil society by the name Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed. Among the people elected to hold its helm of leadership were Charles K. Steele, Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King were made the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. These three are considered the pioneers of the American Civil Rights movement. SCLC had the main responsibility in the civil rights association duties, rooted its ethics on peaceful negotiations, and struggled against civil rebelliousness. According to King, it was essential that the civil rights movement not sink to the level of the racists and hate-mongers who opposed them: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline,” he urged (Milestones in the modern civil rights movement, 2009).

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The combination of national government power and African Americans and the courage triumph over “Massive resistance”

The Civil Rights Movement ended when Jim Crow empowered black voters in the 1960s, leading to the rising of blacks into high government offices. It was not until September 1957, the previously all-white Central High School realized that talking about integration was altogether different from the actual process of integration. Orval Faubus, who was a Governor then, gave commands of stopping nine black students (currently identified as the “Little Rock Nine”) from accessing the school. The students stayed put until the then U.S.A. president, Eisenhower, sent troops and the National Guard to the rescue of the students (Milestones in the modern civil rights movement, 2009).

Rosa Parks remained defiant in her seat at the front of the bus even after a white passenger tried to get her off it terming it a white section. Parks was a member of the NAACP, an African American movement. After her arrest, the Montgomery black community initiated a boycott that lasted for the whole year and resulted in the reversal of the rules of segregation. As the newly elected Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), president the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was at the forefront of the boycott.

The New Deal Coalition was a political coalition, created by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. It put into consideration all the demographic subsections that felt oppressed in a way or the other (Allswang, 1978). The coalition however collapsed in the mid-1960s because of disputes over race and the Vietnam War and opposition by the Conservative Coalition of northern Republicans and southern Democrats. By 2010, the issue of black empowerment seems to have taken a low profile. This casts doubt on whether Barrack Obama’s election was really a topic of black empowerment or a reaction to the economic turmoil that had hit America causing long-time unemployment and poverty.

How Reagan successfully negotiated with what he initially called “the evil empire” (Sloan, 2010)

In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was the American president, the Soviet Union was called ‘the evil empire’. Reagan was of the idea that America should be superior so favored matching and exceeding the military capabilities of the Soviet Union. It is alleged to have been coined by his chief speechwriter at the time, Anthony R. Dolan, for the president’s use. In October 1986, President Reagan and the Soviet’s Premier Mikhail Gorbachev came very close to signing an agreement that would wipe out the entire nuclear arsenals of both countries. The negotiating teams however pondered and came up with what was considered a technical fantasy: the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) — an idea that was found irresistible by Reagan, refusing to relinquish it and one that Gorbachev could not agree to (Delaney, 2009).


African Americans and other Africans with a black background enjoy relatively good treatment especially from the government and its bodies. Legal laws are observed with keen measures taken to ensure no form of discrimination is experienced by the state. There are strict rules and regulations that govern the citizenry against racial discrimination. If a discriminated person can prove discrimination in a court of law, the American constitution gives him the right to press charges and sue the offenders. American society has greatly changed since the 1920s when the “New Negro” movement was been formed and black boxers moving to France in search of careers, success, equality and individual freedom. In the 1960s, African Americans were finally recognized as American citizens, registered as voters and allowed to vote.


Allswang, J. M. (1978). New Deal and American Politics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN-10_047102516

Delaney, J. (2009) Play takes theatergoers back to Reagan’s nuclear negotiations with The Soviet Union. Web. 

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Milestones in the modern civil rights movement, (2009) Information Please. Web.

Sloan, C. (2010). NEW YORK (CBS). Web.

Runstedtler, T. (2009). Radical History Review. North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN-22_847102516

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