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Transcript of AFAM project
People Significant Texts and the Messages They Portray What Do We Do Now? Dr. King Beloved Woolworths The history of African Americans is a colorful one. Like objects, they were sold and traded. Like beasts, they bore the labor of their masters. But as people, they decided they had enough. And as a group, they fought back. Going back to their origins on this continent, we see a history of oppression. That history of oppression bred a history of resistance. Perhaps the most iconic leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was best know for being a proponent of peaceful resistance. In fact, he often quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who preached similar ideas. His leadership in starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 exemplified his power to bring people together, the coherence of the black community, and the power of peaceful resistance. RObert Williams Freedom Riders Harriet Tubman Demby Septima Clark The Front Of the Bus Loophole of Retreat
The Middle Passage Little Rock High ARTIFACT Watch this short video documentary on Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech. He delivered these words of inspiration on the steps of the Washington Monument in 1963. His message had a positive, hopeful tone about the future of race relations. Not surprisingly, not every African American thought like Dr. King. Quite to the contrary, some believed in a more violent form of resistance. One such person was Ex-Marine Robert Williams. When he returned from his service in the Korean War, Williams committed himself to applying his military experience to the civil rights effort. In conjunction with the NRA, he created a rifle club within the NAACP. His goal to "meet lynching with lynching" stood in stark contrast to the preachings of Dr. King and other nonviolent resistors. Although this movement was smaller and less well-known, one would be mistaken to think that everyone believed in peaceful resistance. Resistance came from young people too. Taking a bus ride from Washington, DC to New Orleans in 1961, a group of young men sought to test the Supreme Court decision made in Boynton v. Virginia. All though the court ruled that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal, these men suspected that the law had not quite made its was into implementation. They were right. When the black men tried to enter through "whites only" entrances or sit in the white section of buses, they were arrested for trespassing. By resisting through action, the freedom riders put the legal system to the test. Tubman was one of the many who resisted the institution of slavery, but did so on a massive scale. By forging the Underground Railroad network, she helped free as many as 100,000 enslaved people. At its peak in the 1850s, the "railroad" was a complex and secretive system involving people all over the country which aided escaped slaves in reaching relative safety. In Frederick Douglass's narrative, he recalls the story of a fellow slave named Demby. While living and working on Colonel Lloyd's plantation, Demby was continually whipped like all of the other enslaved workers. One day, however, he decided he had enough. He escaped the grasp of the vicious overseer and plunged himself into a nearby creek. The overseer raised his gun and gave Demby three counts to get out of the water, but he didn't move an inch. Douglass watched as the cruel slave driver counted to three, then shot Demby. His example of resistance shows the horrors of American slavery. In 1956 Clark made a defiant stand for employment rights by resisting the government. When the South Carolina legislature passed a law banning government employees from being involved with civil rights organizations, she refused to quit her job as a public school teacher, despite the fact that she was an avid supporter of the NAACP. This, of course, led to her being fired. Beloved represents all that is wretched about slavery. Toni Morrison's novel, by the same name, depicts a mother who is willing to do anything to prevent her children from being put into slavery. She ultimately kills her youngest daughter, Beloved, confident that death is better that living in the conditions she had seen. Death is the darkest form of resistance. Some enslaved people were driven to suicide or abortion over the wretchedness of their condition. Beloved is a haunting reminder of that reality. ARTIFACT What was once an everyday sandwich counter in North Caroline became another symbol of resistance in 1960. In order to fight segregation in restaurants, four black college students sat at this lunch counter in Greensboro, NC and refused to leave after being told they would not be served. This was one of many sit-ins executed by young blacks eager to show that were unwilling to be passive as white society tried to strangle them of their rights. In the attic of her grandmother's cottage, Harriet Jacobs hid from her oppressive and abusive owner for an unbelievably long period of seven years. She called her small space the "loophole of retreat." From there, she watched her children grow up by peering through cracks in the wall and only left at night. Although only a small part of her incredible tale, the loophole is a symbol of the great measures that enslaved people took in order to resist their oppressors. For decades, this was a forbidden place for African Americans. It was a symbol of white superiority and a constant reminder that blacks were of a different class. But it was also the site of one of the most iconic acts of resistance of the entire civil rights movement. Although Rosa Parks was not the first African American to insist upon breaking the rules by sitting there, she was certainly the most famous. People like Parks are heralded for their courage, but it is important to recognize that her courage was not unique. Rather, it represented the courage of the many African Americans who resisted oppression, but did not end up in the history books. Sometimes bravery comes from places you would never expect. That was certainly the case when nine black teenagers ignored an angry mob of adults and marched to the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School for the first day of school in 1957. In the wake of the Brown v. Board decision, Little Rock was attempting to slowly integrate its public schools. Despite huge backlashi from the public, the "Little Rock Nine" engaged in youth resistance in order to send a clear message to the country: segregated schools were unacceptable. This was the second leg of the triangular route taken by slave capturing expeditions starting in the 1500s. The ships would arrive in Africa to claim the people who were to be sold as slaves, then depart on the long journey across the Atlantic to the new world. Although it is hard to estimate how many people were captured and how many made the journey, it is well know that the conditions were beyond brutal. The kinds of tools and gadgets found on these ships suggested that the captives fought hard against their oppressors, often dying in the process. ARTIFACT ARTIFACT Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass The Bluest Eye The Souls of Black Folk Walker's Appeal Harriet Jacobs was a unique case. Though many enslaved people were able to escape their condition and some were able to reach relative safety, few were able to articulate their story like she did. Her narrative follows her life all the way from childhood to her eventual freedom. Jacobs's struggle was multi-dimentional, as she displays in the themes involving identity, womanhood, and beauty. She addresses the "trials of girlhood" and beauty as a curse, shedding light on the fact that enslaved men and enslaved women led very different lives. Jacobs's resistance against the curses of her own sexuality comes when she sleeps with her master's neighbor -- a way to infuriate him and exert control over her body. Not all slaves lived like Frederick Douglass. In fact, he considers himself to have been relatively lucky. His story takes him to a number of different plantations inder a number of different masters, but his most amazing act of resistance occurred under the watch of Captain Auld. During his childhood, Mrs. Auld began to teach him how to read. Once Captain Auld discovered this, she was ordered to stop immediately. But, the seed had already been planted. Douglass was determined to become literate despite the fear-based wishes of his master. The Bluest Eye is not a slave narrative, but a portrait of society. It paints a picture of post-depression rural black families and relies heavily on imagery to portray themes about identity and the way we perceive ourselves. The struggle to resist white society's idea of what is beautiful is obvious when we see Claudia tear apart the white, blond-haired doll. Yet, at the same time, we see Pecola beg for blue eyes to the point where she drives herself mad. Toni Morrison's novel portrays a very different kind of resistance that is represented by a struggle within the individual. "The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." So claimed W.E.B DuBois in what would become one of the foundational texts of the civil rights debate. DuBois aimed to paint a picture of what life was like for African Americans. He also uses this text to argue against the work of Booker T. Washington, who held a radically different view about how blacks should situate themselves in society. Written to mimic the US constitution, David Walker's "Appeal..." is a written report on the state of colored people in 1829. Walker concludes that his people are "the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived." Not only is slavery a wretched institution, but American slavery is even more cruel, hypocritical and dehumanizing than any other kind in history. This text served as a call to resistance. HELLOTHERE Integrationists Accommodationists Nationalists/ Separatists This ideology called for immediate equality and integration of the races. Integrationists saw no difference between whites and blacks, and thought each was an equal part of society. Their detractors claimed that there was too much damage done -- that whites and blacks could never live together happily. Rather than take this pessimistic point of view, integrationists like Dr. King worked for equality. Accommodation involved making concessions to the white community in return for some level of respect and standing in society. Many saw this as "selling out" or settling for less than they deserved. The main proponent of this ideology was Booker T. Washington, who urged his people to get an industrial education and become a strong working class with economic influence. He was disagreed with by other prominent black thinkers like DuBois. Separatism was the belief that integration was a futile exercise; that integration meant the degradation of black culture. Rather, a "separate but equal" doctrine was ideal. Like separatists, nationalists believed in total separation of the races. The difference is that nationalists advocated for the creation of a black state. The Nation of Islam falls under these categories. Although the group could generally be called separatist, some of its more radical members (including its most famous leader, Malcom X) were certainly nationalists. ARTIFACT This excerpt is from a poem written by Cecilia Devere, an escaped slave who used the Underground Railroad network to reach New York. In it, she praises the everyday men and women who made her escape possible, and credits God with keeping them together. I have never seen the likes of you,
Pioneer in dark glasses:
You won’t show the mob your eyes,
But I know your gaze,
With their jerry-rigged faith,
Their spear on the American flag,
How could they dare to believe
You’re someone sacred?:
Nigger, burr-headed girl,
Where are you going?
I’m just going to school. Thick at the schoolgate are the ones
Rage has twisted
Into minotaurs, harpies
So you must walk past the pincers,
The swaying horns,
Straight through the gusts
Of fear and fury,
Where are you going?
I’m just going to school.
Here we go to meet
The hydra-headed day,
Here we go to meet
Can my voice be an angel-on-the-spot,
An amen corner?
Can my voice take you there,
Gallant girl with a notebook,
Up, up from the shadows of gallows trees
To the other shore:
A globe bathed in light,
A chalkboard blooming with equations— This poem, entitled "Soul Make A Path Through Shouting," was written by Cyrus Cassells in honor of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine. Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress... Hereisthehouseitisgreenandwhiteithasareddooritisveryprettyhereisthefamilymotherfatherdickandjaneliveinthegreenandwhitehousetheyareveryhappyseejaneshehasareddress... Here is the house it is green and white it has a red door it is very pretty here is the family mother father dick and jane live in the green and white house they are very happy see jane she has a red dress... The following are excerpts from "The Bluest Eye." Morrison uses a series of primers (once used to teach children how to read) to make a point about white ideas of what is normal and what is beautiful. Take a look at how she changes the passage: The breakdown of these primers is similar to the breakdown that occurs in the story. Morrison uses them to comment on the absurdity of the mesage that those primers put across. Resistance would be useless without some sort of direction to take it in. The leaders of the civil rights movement had to decide what to do with all of the energy garnered through centuries of resistance. Unfortunately, there was much disagreement over how African Americans should situate themselves in society. These are the words that give life to African American studies. These are the texts will be studied until the end of time. Ranging in date of origin from 1829 to 1970, each of these texts touches on the resistance strategies that were significant in their contexts. These were the places where it all happened. Each of these places saw bravery, struggle, and victory. Each of these places saw resistance. These are the faces of resistance. Resistance was by no means the just the effort of these six people; rather, it took an entire race. Yet still, the people we remember and champion will always serve as inspiration, and as reminders of what our past holds. Afican American Studies: A History of Resistance TYLER SAX Watch this short video documentary on the
middle passage. Told in the first person, it relays the story of people who jumped ship in order to escape the misery of the middle passage. The disturbing images show the how crammed the space was and how famished the people were. The controversial and charasmatic Malcom X talks about "house negros" vs. "field negros" in this video clip ARTIFACT The Globe It is important to note that Africans were not only taken to America. In fact, Europeans were the ones who perfected slave capturing and the first enslaved people to reach the new world were sold into South American slavery. This spreading of people across the globe created the African DIaspora, making their resistance a global struggle, not just a local one. Follow me on a journey as we take a look at the people, places and things that made this possible. We have reached the end of our journey. Hopefully these entries have given you an idea about what resistance was and everything that made it possible. African American studies is a rich field and this is only one of many topics that cover it. So, I urge you to keep exploring.