This project will demonstrate numerous obstacles African Americans faced in American history as well as how they were able to overcome them, specifically the economic adversity that plagued blacks for decades. This project will highlight those individuals who either helped or impeded African Americans economically. Also demonstrating the importance of education for blacks and how with knowledge they were able to accomplish impressive economic status. Even though the majority of the American population did little to help African Americans get acclimate in American society.
Beginning with Reconstruction which was implemented by Congress from 1866 to 1877, aimed reorganize the disarray of the South after the Civil War. It was a way to help acclimate African Americans by congress passing the Thirteenth, Fourteen, and Fifteenth amendment and the Civil Right Act of 1866. These laws allowed blacks to vote, acquire land from former land owners, seek their own employment, as well as using public accommodations.With these opportunities, African Americans began having aspirations to improve, to better themselves, their families and their future generations to come.These recent developments had many white southerners outraged, and many resorted to violence to keep blacks applying their newly found rights. Throughout the Reconstruction period, black communities experienced institutionalized exclusion demonstrated as direct and structural violence. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camelia, and other vigilante groups began to form, due to the white southerners inability to accept blacks as citizens. These groups protested black education, their economic advancement and their right to vote. The cruelty was endless, “they whipped, tortured, raped, and lynched black people, community leaders, and white supporters of black communities”. These acts suppressed blacks from improving their economic status because it oppressed and ultimately planted Africans Americans back into poverty.
For those who stay in the south, many started putting their hopes and trust in a better future for black educators like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. Many believe that the only ways blacks weren’t going to move up the ranks economically, as well as fighting the oppression of education. Considering the fact only a small percentage of the black population had been literate at the close of the Civil War.
Then we forward into how institutions like The Tuskegee Institute was founded by Booker T Washington in 1881, for the purpose of training teachers in Alabama. Tuskegee’s program provided students with both academics and employment. Under Washington’s direction, students built their own buildings, produced their own food, and it also helped provide their daily needs. The basic skills that students learned would be shared with the African American communities all over the South. In a journal article, The journal of negros by Donald’s generals, he explains what it was like for black students to work together, “all of the teams were working in harmony toward a common cause in the interest of their working and living environment.” This exemplifies how the creations of schools for African Americans not only help educate them, but also it brought them closer in times of struggle and strife.
In terms of W.E.B Du Bois, his photographs for the 1900 Paris exposition, helped illustrate the condition, education, and literature of African Americans experienced at the turn of the twentieth century. This was significant for the perception of African American in an American society because it portrayed to the world what blacks were capable of with the guidance of education. In addition to that, it also proved that giving blacks an opportunity allowed them to contribute positively to the countries’ economy. In these photographs, DuBois described that by 1900, African Americans owned over one million acres of land in the state of Georgia. This was a significant amount of land that was close to twelve million dollars of tax money. Also there were photographs about successful black-owned business in the state of Georgia.
As the African American community began making large strides economically, white supremacist groups continued to lynch, rape, and torture blacks in hopes of keeping them down. In the journal article “Looking at One’s Self through the Eyes of Others”: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition by Shawn Michelle Smith, Dubois explains the true meaning behind these horrific images of American Americans. “Du Bois’s photographs disrupt the binary dividing criminal from middle-class individual, they also challenge the dualism that maintains a stable white center in relation to a black margin in turn-of-the-century U.S. culture.” This demonstrates how society pictured blacks, but how blacks were not allowed to reach certain standards of economic success. Also, these achievements blacks were able to accomplish didn’t matter because some blacks still were viewed as criminals and uneducated beings.
The Great Depression:
The crashing of the stock market in 1929 caused many African Americans in both cities and rural areas to suffer greatly from the economic depression. The majority of the population lost their homes and had to rely on soup kitchens in order survive. Many Americans, including blacks, had to leave their home with all their belongings to search for jobs and a better life for themselves and their families. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, he promised a “New Deal” for all Americans that would provide help, economically. Although the New Deal had its flaws, it provided blacks with housing, agricultural, and economic programs as well as opportunities for blacks to obtain employment. [Although Roosevelt’s “New Deal” claimed to be for all Americans including African American, it turns out it was the opposite. In order for the “New Deal” to pass, Roosevelt needed support from the Southern democrats. But to gain their vote most of the programs offered by the “New Deal” discriminated against the black community. Programs like The Federal Housing Authority (FHA), refused to guarantee mortgages for blacks who tried to buy in white neighborhoods. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), forced more than 100,000 off their land in 1933 and 1934. African Americans also experienced discrimination in the labor force.
- Editors, History.com. “Black Leaders During Reconstruction.” History.com. June 24, 2010. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/black-leaders-during-reconstruction.
- Opotow, Susan. “”Not So Much As Place to Lay Our Head…”: Moral Inclusion and Exclusion in the American Civil War Reconstruction.” SpringerLink. February 26, 2008. Accessed April 04, 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11211-007-0061-9. (Opotow 2008, 214)
- Generals, Donald. “Booker T. Washington and Progressive Education: An Experimentalist Approach to Curriculum Development and Reform.” The Journal of Negro Education 69, no. 3 (2000): 215-34. doi:10.2307/2696233. (Generals 2000, 216)
- (Dolinar 2013, pg 106) Akassi, Monique Leslie, and Arthur McFarlane. W.E.B. Du Bois and the Africana Rhetoric of Dealienation. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.
- Smith, Shawn Michelle. “”Looking at One’s Self through the Eyes of Others”: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition.” African American Review 34, no. 4 (2000): 581-99. doi:10.2307/2901420.
- “FDR and The New Deal.” PBS. Accessed May 09, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/themes/fdr/.
- Digital History. Accessed May 09, 2019. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=2&psid=3447.