Effects of Slavery on African Americans Today Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2442 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice


The history of African-Americans concerns the story of a group of people who were displaced from their different homelands and struggled through great adversity to adapt to their new "homes" and redefine their traditions and culture. Since arriving in North America, their dreams, thoughts, hopes and actions became responsible for some of the most profound economic, political, and cultural developments in the modern Western world. Black resistance slowly destroyed the political and economic system of slavery and created new forms of democracy and equality for all people of color and women. Black creativity influenced all forms of Western art, music, dance and theater.

Black intellectualism looked at various forms of scholarship in entirely different ways to establish new methodologies and approaches.

In the 1700s, the Europeans had already started exploiting African labor on plantations in the Mediterranean and off the coast of West Africa, so the modern world followed suit and turned to Africa as a reservoir of slaves. This led to a coerced migration and enslavement of several million Africans from numerous countries and cultural backgrounds. Although scholars debate the exact numbers, it is understood that somewhere between ten and twenty million people became part of the system of enslavement that eventually led to African diaspora and African-Americans. Many thousands died on the trek from the interior to the coast, during the wait for a slave ship, or on the harsh middle passage. Thousands of others died from disease or maltreatment once they arrived at their final destinations (Merriam, 1970).

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Once arriving, some Africans were treated like European indentured servants and set free after a designated period of time. Others were slaves for life, and their children were either slaves as well or born free. Over time, however, the masters realized the value of their investments and began to write and support stringent laws that tightened the bonds of racial slavery -- making African slavery an condition that was inherited and that denied black people the most basic human rights.

Term Paper on Effects of Slavery on African Americans Today Assignment

When the Civil War ended in 1865, many African-Americans hoped for their inclusion into the nation's civic culture. With ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868, which granted blacks citizenship, and the 15th Amendment in 1870, which extended the franchise, they were optimistic that their lives would change for the better. Many began searching for family members separated during slavery. Others exercised their political right to form labor associations, build schools, churches, and other institutions. Even though racial discrimination and violence dampened some of this optimism, blacks voted and played an active role in the country's affairs (Fogel, 1989)

Yet, the changes for which they had hoped so desperately did not come, as the situation worsened over the following decade. Federal troops left the South, freed slaves did not receive the land promised them, white terrorist groups lynched and murdered, and the same individuals who supported the Southern cause in the Civil War against the North returned to positions of power. Even as the African-Americans fought valiantly in World War I and World War II, they did not receive recognition when returning to the States.

However, after the Second World War, the attitudes of the blacks began to change. Although segregated from the white troops in the war, they had finally had the freedom that they desired for so long. When coming back to the states, many of these soldiers joined the fight for civil rights that was already taking place in the United States. The twentieth century brought passage of the weak Civil Rights Act of 1957, the more forceful Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This photograph shows President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Title VIII, also known as the Fair Housing Act. Together these acts reinstated the African-Americans' right to full citizenship.

As blacks had learned time and time again in the past, passing a law does not change people's beliefs over night. Since the 1960s, life has not been easy. Roadblocks have been placed in their way for pursuing education, finding equal employment opportunities, moving into the political arena and acquiring social and economic strength. Much of the problems stem from continued negative stereotypes about blacks in general, and young male blacks in particular.

Hickman (1998) hypothesized that crime began to be racialized as it is currently, equating criminals with "young black males' in the 1960s, as a part of contests over the meaning of race, rime and justice that resulted from African-American struggles for freedom and political equality in the United States. The impact of this racialization is that discourse about race, whether or not racial characteristics are made explicit.

Because of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the public saw a great deal of political struggles by diverse groups. This was the same time that moral panic about crime was raised to new heights. Chambliss (1995) cites a Newsweek article noting Goldwater's unusual concerns about crime; for the first time in 20 years, crime came in at 29% for the amount of people seeing this as a growing problem. In addition several crime acts were passed.

Hickman notes that the "criminalization of young African-American men has been more than symbolic." When the Civil Rights movement took place, there was a declining economy, which made it even more difficult for African-Americans to find the American dream. In the 1980s and 1990s, adds Hickman, political backlash against blacks came with the rising conservatism of the country.

The connection between blacks and crime started one of the most significant impacts on African-Americans -- the prison system. African-Americans make up less than 13% of the U.S. population but constitute nearly 50% of the prison population. The message of revolt in the rap music clearly conveys the impact of the present criminal justice system on young black men.

Millers adds (1997) that the rigid categories the justice system abundantly creates seem particularly precious in a society grown vicious over crime - offering refuge in an artificial world of black-and-white issues carrying the system ever further apart from the complexity of human narrative. Acknowledging the specific conditions from which a particular violent offender may have arisen is apparently more threatening to the American society now than the violent act itself. Such uncomfortable realities undermine the sense of certainty that feeds the moral indignation and drives the punitive response on which the justice system rests. "It is much easier to gear the citizenry up to fight the devil than it is to ask it to consider the devilish details that brought the demon to the door. We would rather immerse ourselves in a massive exercise in selective inattention."

Concludes Roberts (2004): The elimination past regimes of racial repression required the conversion of normal social arrangements into a moral question. The United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education reversed "separate-but-equal" schooling when black agitation revealed its immorality. For the past 30 years, the growth of the prison population has generally been accepted as a conventional law enforcement response to crime. Prisons are enmeshed in the normal way of life in many inner-city communities. Empirical research on the social consequences of incarceration and the resulting disenfranchisement of their citizens makes the moral question of mass imprisonment inescapable. The mounting evidence of mass imprisonment's collateral damage to African-American communities demonstrates that the extent of U.S. incarceration is morally unjustifiable and repugnant. By damaging social networks, norms, and citizenship, mass incarceration serves a repressive political function that contradicts democratic norms and is itself immoral. This state-imposed injury warrants both affirmative action in the criminal justice system and the massive infusion of resources in inner-city neighborhoods to build local institutions, support social networks, and create social citizenship.

African-Americans have not faired well in the media. Both news programs and TV shows reinforce the image of the young black man working with dangerous street criminals and selling drugs. Hickman conducted a study of cover stories on crime from 1946 to 1995 to determine 1) to what extent crime portrays crime as a problem of urban blacks; 2) does this change in the period between 1946 and 1995 and when?; 3) if such a linkage is established do later covers assume rather than explicitly state this connection? And 4) How might the coverage of crime contribute to a shift from traditional to modern racism? Hickman (1998) concludes that the Time and Newsweek stories primarily cover crime as a problem of the blacks. Such depictions began after the Civil Rights Movement at the end of the 1960s. Later stories tend to indicate blacks as offenders more indirectly, such as through references to the high proportions of African-American victims of crime and high levels of crime in inner-city neighborhoods -- thus showing a switch from traditional to modern, symbolic racism.

Clawson and Trice conducted a similar study by analyzing media portrayals of the poor during the time when welfare reform was high on the political agenda. They investigated whether the media perpetuate inaccurate and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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