The history of America has played an important role in its past and current political, social and economic state. This history also plays a big role in shaping its future as it has laid down rules and policies which have formed the building block of the American economy. This essay identifies some of the most important events in the American history, highlighting their significance. It further reviews the historical context of these events and the factors which led to their occurrence.
African American Empowerment
Tuskegee institute came into existence in the late nineteenth century. Approval for its establishment was secured by William Forester and Arthur Brooks who were returning a favor to a black politician named Lewis Adams. Its founding father was Booker T. Washington who was inspired by the need to create a self-sufficient and independent African-American society throughout the South. The establishment of Tuskegee institute was allowed by the charter of Alabama legislature and the students of the institute were meant to be future teachers. The students were trained in academic and occupation-related subjects like law but most of the emphasis was put on the practical part of education whereby students were trained in crafts like farming, carpentry and even masonry. The whites from the South who initially were against education for the African Americans came to appreciate the efforts of Booker T. Washington since they considered these efforts as a way of enlightening the African Americans on accepting their inferiority to the whites. That was why some people, for example, Andrew Carnegie, contributed towards building of the institute.
General Samuel C. Armstrong
Born on the thirtieth of January in the year 1839, Samuel C. Armstrong rose through the military ranks to become a colonel and general who fought in the American Civil War. Having made a distinguished carrier in military service, Samuel turned his life to focus on education where he became an inspiration and role model for the adherents of Booker T. Washington. His carrier in education began when he was assigned to command the eighth United States Colored Troops. Holding this position he developed the need and interest to improve the welfare of the African Americans and as such, he established a school at Stanton to give basic education to the African American soldiers. At the end of the assignment, with the help of the American Missionary Association, he established the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. This institute was meant to equip the black Americans with necessary job and teaching skills to enable them to provide for themselves. His Hampton style of education sought to encourage equality among blacks and whites by encouraging the whites to develop those they considered the inferior race. It also taught the blacks to become independent and contribute positively towards the well-being of their communities. This style put much emphasis on education which involved heart, mind and hands as means of securing one’s future and well-being.
The Talented Tenth
The term ‘The Talented Tenth’ was invented by the white liberals in the North and was brought into wide use by William Du Bois. These white liberals such as the American Baptist Home Mission Society had the ambition of empowering the blacks via founding colleges for them to nurture their skills and ambitions. ‘Talented Tenth’ simply meant that one out of ten black men empowered through education, writing and involvement in social activities would rise up and become a leader of the rest. Du Bois highlighted the importance of classical education over industrial education lobbied by people like Booker T. Washington as an ultimate way of nurturing the African Americans’ potential and producing future intellectuals. African Americans were to become the best if they were to eradicate the racial stigma and inferiority status. The work of Du Bois on ‘The Talented Tenth’ clearly showed how leadership could be achieved by the ordinary people. Due to such concepts as ‘The Talented Tenth’ African Americans knew they could lead and be on a par with the rest of the society.
‘Double consciousness’ was a term made by William Du Bois. It sought to explain the many aspects of an individual’s identity and describe the divisions, either social or psychological, that marked the American society. It sought to explain the disadvantaged position that African Americans were put in as they were black by origin and their identity was American. This caused psychological and social tension among the African Americans and as a result, their morals were destroyed. While coining this term, it was never in Du Bois’s interests to alienate America from the African values, but rather to harmonize the identity of an individual as an African and as an American. This would help rid the American society of racism and do away with the inferiority stigma that dominated the minds of the African Americans. ‘Double consciousness’ manifested itself in three ways, which are as follows: the superiority of the stereotypes of whites over the life of blacks, racism which segregated the blacks from the rest of the society and the conflict of ideologies between one’s identity as an American and as an African. This concept went a long way in helping people take African American as people and realize the problems they faced and opened the ways to help them.
The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments showed the rise of the African Americans from the state of slavery and segregation by the society. After the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, there emerged a need to create laws to govern activities of the freed slaves in the South. This led to the ratification that became known as the Fourteenth Amendment. In this amendment, Republicans hailing from the northern states and those from the South gave the African Americans the legal right and entitlement to American citizenship.
However, these rights were not inclusive of the rights to vote and elect their leaders which still remained a privilege of the whites. The Fifteenth Amendment put an end to this disparity as it enabled people to vote without any discrimination. As a result, every person who was a legal American citizen was allowed to vote, regardless of their skin color and race. These amendments contributed to the progression of the United States towards a free and fair society in which racial segregation was no longer a basis for dispensing services. They were a step forward towards creation of an equal and fair society.
The Atlanta Compromise
Atlanta compromise was an agreement that came into being in 1895. It was aimed at creating harmony between whites and blacks in the South. It condemned African Americans to submission to their white counterparts in exchange for the education and justice. Under this agreement, African Americans were to suffer in silence and never advocate for proper justice system and equal treatment. The whites, on the other hand, were to fund educational projects which were to benefit the black Americans. The terms and conditions of this agreement were never written down and Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute, brokered the deal on behalf of the entire African American population. This compromise served to bridge the gap between the blacks and whites. It further laid down a firm foundation for the achievement of racial equality. The speech which yielded this agreement was made at Bubba Park in Atlanta Georgia before a white audience and it became known as the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition Speech. The term ‘Tuskegee Machine’ was coined to describe the supporters of this compromise. However, with the death of Booker T. Washington 1915 and continued resistance from the adherents of William Du Bois and William Monroe who advocated for equal rights, this compromise eventually collapsed.
‘The New Negro’
‘The New Negro’ was a movement that resulted from struggles of African American migrants for a society based on the principles of fairness and equality. After their migration from South to the industrial North at the end of the American Civil War in the mid nineteenth century, they became concentrated in a place known as Harlem. It was while living in Harlem that their political and cultural activities flourished and received nationwide recognition. Cultural activities like music were used to enlighten the general American public about the African Americans’ life and its challenges. It was through such means that African Americans advocated for equality and fair treatment. Their leaders like Marcus Garvey came up with publications such as the ‘Negro World’ that sought to articulate the problems facing the blacks and unify all the African Americans towards a common cause. Later this movement gave rise to the Universal Negro Movement and Conservation Association and African Communities League which brought the needs of the blacks all over the world to a center stage. Such movements showed the need for collective responsibility among the African Americans towards achieving a society devoid of racism and based on fairness.
Events, institutions and concepts such as Tuskegee Institute, ‘Double consciousness’, ‘The Talented Tenth’, Atlanta compromise served to empower the African Americans and enable them to attain complete independence. They raised the issues like racism and segregation which the blacks had to deal with and appealed to the society and the world in general to come up with ways of ensuring equality and fairness. They highlighted the need to uphold human dignity and values while condemning vices such as racism at the same time.