Impact of Race, Gender and Place/Location on the shape and course of the African American experience between 1860 and 1915
Several variables have shaped and influenced the course of the African American. This essay explores three of these variables namely race, class and location. Coming from slavery and being considered as equal to animals without rights made African American race to be frowned upon by whites (Washington p.8-9). African Americans had limited opportunities for work, study, political rights and free movement because of their race. Race has also created a form of stereotyping that recognizes the African American as ignorant, stupid and without civilization. Being black or colored meant that one could not access several privileges in the society, and this made the whites advance through education and enterprise while leaving the black to his uncivilized ways of existence (Dubois p.60).
African Americans even after the end of slavery had a difficult time of progressing economically as they lacked proper education. They became of a lower class in the majority of America, only able to do jobs that did not require education and therefore only able to secure very little in terms of pay. The lack of capital also restricted African Americans from developing their own institutions. The time to socially organize and deliberate on their future was limited because both adults and children were preoccupied with working for the white farmers and merchants who paid little coins at the end of a day’s toil. In the cotton fields it was evident that even meal times were not proper for discussions and signified the hard effect of the toil had on the African Americans. Class segregation also resulted to differences in the funding of institutions by blacks and white, for example white schools received about three times federal funding than black schools (Dubois p.112). There were fewer schools available for blacks, and those wishing to pursue education at first had to leave their towns for other towns (Washington p.42). Secondly the few schools that were in existence were mostly established as a result of pity for the African American, and were only meant to teach them basic of reading and writing without emphasizing on the application of that education to their life. As such, there were blacks studying French even though they could not use that anywhere, because their class meant that they were prohibited from the social places that French whites might frequent, and make their learning of French worthy (Dubois p.29). Differentiation by class became visible in the churches, which were mostly Baptist. The songs adopted mainly were promising of a later time when emancipation would happen to make them of equal class to other Americans. Movements calling for equality sprang from churches, since this were the only places to gather enough numbers of the African Americans while they were not working in the fields (Dubois p.120).
African Americans were mainly coming from the south of America, and the states in the south were advocating for the continuation of slavery, while those of the north were for its abolition (Washington p.7). Even after the emancipation of the African American from slavery, the whites in the south still considered them as slaves for some time. During the period of slavery, very little if any was provided for the development of the African American and therefore, most African Americans found themselves depending on the federal governments for everything. This matter was further complicated by the fact that the south lacked any infrastructure that would aid the African American to provide for them. This created a frustration depicted mostly by the youth who despaired at the thoughts of having no education and having to work for low wages to fend for themselves. Their ignorance also opened them to exploitation by the white owners who upon receiving full installments for the purchase of land, refused to hand over the deed to the purchasing African American and instead made the African American continue working as a laborer on a land their own land (Washington p.106).
It is without wonder that with the struggle after the emancipation, the African American mostly became interested in the education of their fellows. It was widely believed that with education, their race would be able to be full Americans. Education was the one way to make the African American embrace civilization and withdraw from ignorant ways of living like the practice of lynching that brought shame to the whole race (Johnson p.146). More institutions for African Americans were developed in the south because that is where many African Americans were (Washington p.137). Africans American in order to be recognized by other Americans had to perform exceptionally in their fields, to dispel the notion that nothing much might come out of African Americans even when educated. So the pioneers of progress in recognition by other Americans in their fields became heroes to the rest of the African Americans and accelerated the embracement of hard work and mastery as the ways of concurring the poverty and backwardness that covered the soul of the African American (Johnson p.147).
In conclusion, we can say that race acted as the main determent to the progress of the African American as it was something that couldn’t be hidden unless one was of a colored race. Being located at the south where slavery was practiced widely also provided no or very little chance of advancement of the African American. Lastly the two variables resulted in further discrimination economically into classes, with African Americans finding themselves in lower classes economically with little capital and a lot of debt that majority depended on the state to afford their expenses. Above all variables, race had the most significance and is largely the cause of the other variables namely class and location. To a lesser extend compared to race, the location of African Americans at the south contributed to the lowering of their class.
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