African Americans and Racism
By Emmy Heltzel
Professor Susan Bunger
America is a country that was taken from the Native Americans and colonized by immigrants from all over the world. It claims to be a melting pot where people of all different races, ethnicities, and religions will be accepted with open arms. It is seemingly touted as somewhat of a utopia where all people can come and be treated fairly and they will be given an opportunity to achieve the “American Dream”. There is just one little problem with that dream, and that is the discrimination, prejudice, and racism that is very much alive and well in America. Some people would have you believe that racism is a non-issue for Americans in the new millennium, but I assure you that racism is as prevalent as ever. There are several different racial and ethnic groups that are currently powerless in American society. However, there is one powerless racial group in particular that I believe bears the brunt of the racism in this country, and that is the African Americans.
In order to look at the racism and prejudice against African Americans today, I feel it is important to take a look at the history of how Africans were brought to America and their journey throughout the centuries leading up to today. According to a narrative titled “The Terrible Transformation”, As the European explorers were on their way to America, they also traveled to Africa. While in Africa in the mid 1400’s, the European explorers, specifically the Portuguese, were hoping to find gold and take it back to their country to expand their wealth. When the Portuguese explorers arrived back to their country they brought not only gold back, but they also brought with them Africans that were to become slaves. This marked the beginning of the European’s African slave trading (The Terrible Transformation).
The narrative illustrates that the Portuguese explorer’s initial intentions were to set up a trading post for trading resources such as gold and ivory, as well as to mine for the gold. And as other European explorers continued to travel to Africa, they began to kidnap the African people and trade them for goods. “By the start of the 16th century, almost 200,000 Africans had been transported to Europe and islands in the Atlantic” (The Terrible Transformation). The slave traders found their business to be quite lucrative, and as people started to settle in the Americas, they found that there was a great need for additional people to cultivate certain crops. Because of this great need for additional workforce, the slave traders sent more than 12 million Africans to the Americas to become enslaved. “This slave trade would over time lead to a new social and economic system: one where the color of one's skin could determine whether he or she might live as a free citizen or be enslaved for life” (The Terrible Transformation).
Eddie Becker gives us “Chronology of the History of Slavery: 1619-1789”. With this chronology, we can see how slavery became such a huge part of American history. From the 16th to the 19th century, it has been estimated that around 20 million Africans were taken from their homes during their forced migration to the Americas. Almost half of those people would end up losing their lives because of the greedy slave traders and slave owners. The year of 1619 marks what I believe to be one of the more significant and sad moments in American History, when the first Africans were traded on American soil for food by Dutch traders. The 20 slaves that were traded for food by the Dutch trader were traded in Jamestown. Jamestown would come to play an integral role in the history of slavery in America. It was the first sight of a slave trade, as well as the first public slave auction of more than 20 slaves. The Africans were initially called “indentured servants” and they were used for a number of purposes. There soon became a much greater desire for slave labor with the success of...
References: Wood, Peter H. The Terrible Transformation. A Narrative of Africans in America. Retrieved on
April 30, 2011 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1narr2.html
Becker, Eddie. (1999). Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism. Retrieved on April 29,
2011 from http://www.innercity.org/holt/slavechron.html
Davis, Ronald L. F. Slavery in America: Historical Overview. Retrieved on April 29, 2011 from
King, Martin L Jr. (1963). I Have a Dream Speech. Retrieved April 30, 2011 from
Tran, Song-My. (2005). Professor Says Racism is Still Alive in the United States. The Daily
Power Points from March 14, 2011, provided by Professor Bunger.
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