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COMING OF AGE,THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO,AMERICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY. Robert L Harris Jr, As a field of inquiry with its own conceptual and methodological concerns Afro. American historiography came of age during the past two decades Prior to the 1960s. the writing of Afro American History was dominated by an effort to achieve the notice. and respect of White America It was bound in Jay Saunders Redding s words to. the angle of vision the perceptions the insights and the interpretations once all. too frequently questionable of white historians and chroniclers White historians. generally ignored black people in their treatment of American History When they did. consider them the work was usually impaired by white supremacy 2 Black historians. therefore wrote Afro American History primarily to correct the errors omissions. and distortions that had been generated about black people 3 Because of the drive to. make the Black experience an integral part of the American saga Afro American. historiography did not have a framework or approach of its own. Three major developments converged during the 1960s to intensify interest in the. Afro American past and to change dramatically the writing of Afro American His. tory The civil rights struggle urban uprisings and the Black consciousness movement. forced a reassessment of the Black experience in America The National Advisory. Commission on Civil Disorders reported in 1968 that most Americans know little of. the origins of the racial schism separating our white and Negro Citizens 4There had. been previous studies of the race problem in America most notably the Myrdal. Report during the Second World War when the Afro American plight became more. national in scope for the first time due to massive migration from the South 5 But these. earlier studies did not stimulate the type of response that appeared during the late. 1960s In many respects the media which had become such an important element in. shaping American popular culture triggered interest in the Afro American past. Americans were anxious to know why black people apparently passive before were. now demanding equality The Columbia Broadcasting System televised an excellent. seven part series Of Black America with its first segment Black History Lost. Stolen or Strayed Public Television stations aired a thirty part lecture series. designed by Edgar A Toppin Americans From Africa A History 6 John Hope. Franklin developed four weekly installments for Life Magazine Search for a Black. Past In his introduction to the essays Roger Butterfield wrote that when. Robert L Harris Jr is an Associate Professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center Cornell. University Ithaca New York,108 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY. Independence was won black Americans had to start their own separate struggle for. freedom and equality He continued that Americans however know too little. about it Today when the struggle has become the critical social issue of our time. there is an urgent attempt to understand its background 7. This groundswell of interest in the Afro American past permeated practically every. sector of American society Government on both national and state levels and. generally at the insistence of an aroused black public sought to create greater. awareness of the black historical experience The National Endowment for the. Humanities in August 1968 sponsored seven workshops on college campuses across. the country to discuss materials for courses on Afro Americans and their contribu. tions to American culture 8 Several states among them California Connecticut. Michigan New Jersey and Oklahoma required public school instruction in Afro. American History 9 United States Senate and House sub committees held hearings on. an ill fated bill to establish a national commission on Negro History and Culture The. hearings broadened familiarity with the significance of Afro American History The. sub committees also sensitized federal agencies to the importance of including mate. rial on black historical contributions in their programs 1. Book publishers recognized this trend and printed or reissued hundreds of volumes. on Afro American History Textbook houses in particular revised their works to. reflect the Black presence in America Frances FitzGerald has noted that By the early. seventies most of the school books had been rewritten to include the history of. blacks in America This departure from omission to the inclusion of black people in. the writingof American History reflectedthe issues raisedby the civil rights struggleand. urban unrest more than the Black Consciousness Movement Most of the books that. appeared during the late 1960s and early 1970s explored the status of black people in. American society the nature of white racism in determining that status and the role. that Afro Americans played in the drive for freedom and equality 12These works were. written in the main by white scholars for whom the presence of black people in the. United States was a means to greater understanding of American society Black. historians with few exceptions were still wed to interpreting the black past as a theme. in American History, One volume stood apart from the rest and foreshadowed some of the lines of inquiry. that would propel Afro American historiography into its own during the mid and late. 1970s That was Harold Cruse s Crisis of the Negro Intellectual Cruse recognized the. centrality of Afro American culture for understanding the contours of Afro. American History 3 Moreover it was the Black Consciousness Movement with. Malcolm X as its most symbolic proponent that broke with the traditional interpreta. tion of Afro American History which had sought entry into the mainstream of. American History Malcolm X stressed identification with Africa and ascendant. peoples of color throughout the world He questioned the desirability of Afro. Americans trying to adopt the standards of a society that had historically rejectedtheir. worth as human beings He proposed a different perspective whereby Afro Americans. conceived themselves as part of a strong world majority with more compassionate. values rather than as a weak minority that could only imitate bankrupt American. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 109. The Black Consciousness Movement generated considerable tension within the. historical profession White historians who were still the gatekeepers in graduate. training research funding and publication sought to defend the discipline from what. they saw as the danger of Black Nationalism Arthur Schlesinger Jr for example. dismissed Black Nationalism as emotionalism with no place in the rational discipline. of history He opined that as we proceed to widen our range and bring the. neglected variety and grandeur of our national life into the forefront of historical. understanding we historians will do everything we can to preserve the integrity of the. historical discipline 5 In a similar but more indirect vein C Vann Woodward. cautioned against creating myths exaggerating the past or celebrating the obscure for. contemporary purposes 16These reservations seemed to emanate more from the fear. of losing hegemony over Afro American historiography than from a real understand. ing of Black Nationalism, The Black Consciousness Movement especially as it influenced the wave of young.
black historians who received their graduate education during the late 1960s helped to. extricate Afro American historiography from the mainstream of American History. Many white historians also became sensitive to new directions for writing Afro. American History August Meier has recently observed that a different paradigm for. Afro American historiography developed during the 1960s It did not emphasize. black contributions to the general course of American History nor overly concern. itself with black and white relations 17Afro American historiography after the 1960s. was no longer an appendage to the main currents of American History It expressed a. distinctiveness that would not be overwhelmed by or submerged to the American saga. The recognition growing out of the Black Consciousness Movement that Afro. Americans had created and sustained a viable culture undergirded the new approach. to Afro American History Many scholars both black and white had heretofore. denied the existence of a concrete Afro American culture or they reluctantly. acknowledged the possibility that a sub culture might exist which was at best an. aberration of the dominant American culture They had rejected the idea of cultural. transmission from Africa Moreover they had not seen anything significant enough in. the African background to assist transplanted Africans in their adjustment to Ameri. can society The passage of time acculturation and the dynamics of racial oppression. in their estimation had obliterated any traces of African culture and prevented the. emergence of an Afro American culture 8 This conceptualization of the Afro. American past ignored the focus of cultural interaction excluded any African compo. nent or dismissed cultural retention without the identical material base that originally. fostered it, Most black historians approached the Afro American past as inextricably bound. with the growth of American society They did not criticize the structure of American. society except in its exclusion of black people As Vincent Harding has noted they did. not analyze the systemic barriers to black equality or incisively critique a racist. America 19 John Hope Franklin for example in his preface to the first edition of. From Slavery To Freedom the standard survey of Afro American History explained. that the task here is to tell the story of the process by which the Negro has sought to. cast his lot with an evolving American civilization 20With the major exception of W. E B DuBois few black historians sought the lineaments of an AfroAmerican culture. 110 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY,its origin trajectory and importance. To understand the content methodology and interpretation of Afro American. History for the post 1960s it is necessary to survey the prior concerns and approaches. of black historians Three broad topics have dominated Afro American histori. ography and heretofore preoccupied black historians The African background Slav. ery and Reconstruction have been the primaryareas of investigation The interpreta. tion of those topics has been through revisionist hidden hand contributionist. cyclical and liberal methodologies Revisionism has been the overarching mode of. writing about Afro Americans to correct the misconceptions of Americans in general. and white historians in particular The hidden hand was basically the approach of. pre twentieth century black historians to discern the work of God in human affairs. Contributionism has been a way to demonstrate black participation in the develop. ment of America The cyclical approach to the black experience has sought to explain. successes and failures as similar to the rhythm of nature Liberalism on the other hand. has been a more linear means of examining the Afro American past as a march almost. without detour to freedom and equality, James W C Pennington who published the first general work on Afro American. History in 1841 challenged prevailing theories of racial inferiority He used the Bible. as his major source to prove that black people belonged to the human family and to. refute the alleged curses of Cain and Ham Cain s descendants perished in the Flood. and therefore could not sustain a curse And the Biblical injunction against Ham. according to Pennington applied only to Ham s son Canaan Ethiopians defined. broadly as black people were the progeny of Ham s son Cush With that matter. settled Pennington exalted the history of ancient Egypt and Ethiopia as lands of black. people He explained the slave trade and slavery in America as a result of divine. displeasure with Africans for adopting polytheistic beliefs Slavery he argued grew. out of the American colonists need for labor rather than from racial inferiority 21. Pennington had sought to revise popular notions about black people and to discover. God s plan in transplanting Africans to America, Other early black historians wrote in a similar vein to Pennington but with greater. emphasis on what black people had given to civilization as a means of proving their. equality Robert Benjamin Lewis used the Bible and classical sources to describe. Egyptian contributions to world progress in literature music science architecture. and mathematics He also singled out famous men in world history who had African. ancestry 22 William Wells Brown employed biographical portraits to show what. black people could accomplish when given the opportunity 23The example of black. participation in the Revolutionary War was William C Nell s way to affirm the ability. of black men to become loyal citizens 24These early writers of Afro American History. stressed accomplishment in Africa throughout the known world and in America By. demonstrating black achievement they hoped to change American attitudes about. black people Moreover their work might also inspire Afro Americans to lead exem. plary lives and therefore eliminate any grounds for criticism by their enemies Their. historiography was limited by selection of sources and by the frameworks within. which they studied the past, But even George Washington Williams whom John Hope Franklin has designated.
the father of modern Afro American historiography suffered from a comparable. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 111. limitation To his credit Williams revolutionized Afro American historiography. through the systematic use of source materials He employed newspapers black. organizational records statistics archival materials and interviews 25Despite intro. ducing a more scientific approach to the Afro American past Williams concluded his. impressive two volume work with these words In the interpretation of History the. plans of God must be discerned 26, In a much neglected work W E B DuBois came closer than any other black. historian to defining the essential content of Afro American History He sought in the. Gift of Black Folk the fundamental meaning of the Afro American past In an. incomparable manner he waxed poetic while reciting the material cultural and. spiritual landmarks that Afro Americans created as slaves freemen and citizens. Vastly ahead of his time he wrote about the liberation of women their struggle for. equality and the role of black women in such a movement He capsulized the. Afro American experience with these lines the slave became master the bond. servant became free and the meek not only inherited the earth but made that heritagea. thing of questing for eternal youth of fruitful labor of joy and music of the free spirit. and of the ministering hand of wide and poignant sympathy with men in their struggle. to live and love which is after all the end of being 27. DuBois sketched areas of research about Afro Americans that might have changed. the course of Afro American historiography as much or even more than Williams. systematic use of sources But DuBois also worked within a revisionist context and. could not escape the pressure to emphasize black contributions to American life For. him as for other black historians the race problem existed primarily because whites. did not know the important contributions made by Afro Americans Knowledge was. therefore the best instrument to eliminate racial inequality Carter G Woodson. institutionalized this approach to the Afro American past and established a founda. tion for popularizing Afro American History, There had been other efforts before Woodson but they were generally local in. scope Afro Americans in Philadelphia organized the Banneker Institute in the 1850s. and the Negro Historical Society in 1892 The American Negro Academy of Washing. ton D C 1897 and New York s Negro Society for Historical Research 1911 were. two other examples of earlier attempts to preserve and to propagate knowledge about. the Afro American past 28 Arthur A Schomburg spearhead of the latter group. appealed for a course of study in Negro history and achievements He asked. Whereis our historian to give us our side view and our chair of Negro history to teach. our people our own history 29The Association for the Study of Afro American. formerly Negro Life and History ASALH that Woodson and several other black. men formed in 1915became the closest answer to Schomburg s question Through The. Journal of Negro History started in 1916 the national observance of Negro History. Week begun in 1924 sponsorship of numerous monographs and publication of the. Negro History Bulletin in 1933 the ASALH became the central organization for. stimulating interest in the Afro American past It however was steeped in Woodson s. approach to Afro American historiography as expressed in the first edition of his The. Negro In Our History He wrote that the purpose of his book was to demonstrate. how the Negro has been influenced by contact with the caucasian and to emphasize. what the former has contributed to civilization 30. 112 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, At the ASALH s 1936annual meeting Lawrence D Reddick urged a new approach. to Afro American historiography He identified the prevailing principle as liberal. ism faith in human progress by dint of individual application endurance and. piety 3 Reddick sought a broader frame of reference attention to the common folk. and recognition of the interplay of economic forces especially capitalist development. and expansion He called for a more materialist conception of Afro American History. that would examine the concrete experiences of black people and their relationship to. the production and distribution of wealth The traditional approach to the Afro. American past was more idealistic in considering the legal and ideological bases for. racial inequality As C Vann Woodward wrote in the mid 1960s The first half. century of Negro freedom in America happened to coincide with the dominance of. racism in Western thought generally and in American social theory in particular 32. In Redding s words race relations was the paradigm and practicallya synonym for. Afro American history 33Prior to the 1960s black historians have been preoccupied. with racist thought and unsympathetic race relations as barriersto equality They have. written for a white audience to convince it of a worthy Afro American past and. hopefully of accepting black people into American society Concomitantly they have. also appealed to a black audience to promote pride its heritage and to inspire the will. to struggle for equality, Standing in the way of that objective was the prevalent interpretation of Recon. struction Many white historians characterized the period as a Tragic Era 34They. depicted black people as having been rushed into freedom and hastily involved in. politics as Republican officeholders whose supposed ignorance corruption and. misfeasance in state and local offices practically crippled the South with huge debts. White Democrats therefore had to seize control of southern government disfranchise. the freedmen and segregate them in most areas of public life to rescue the South. Reconstruction became the compelling arena of historical investigation for black. historians during the first half of the twentieth century much as the African back. ground had been a dominant theme before the Civil War Black historians had to. expose misconceptions about Reconstruction to remove the props for disfranchise. ment and segregation, W E B DuBois in his classic book Black Reconstruction refuted the three major.
myths about black people during the era In school textbooks especially the nation s. youth learned that all black people were ignorant lazy dishonest and extrava. gant and responsible for bad government during Reconstruction Dubois chapter. The Propaganda of History revealed how American History had been abused to. oppress black people He wrote that The treatment of the period of Reconstruction. reflects small credit upon American historians as scientists We have too often a. deliberate attempt so as to change the facts of history that the story will make pleasant. reading for Americans 35Since DuBois work there has been a gradual change in the. interpretation of Reconstruction Franklin s Reconstruction After the Civil War. marked the triumphant shift begun by DuBois Alrutheus A Taylor and other black. historians 36, Many black historians approached the Reconstruction myths indirectly by studying. those blacks who were free before the Civil War If black people could care for. themselves acquire education and accumulate property before the Reconstruction. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 113. era there were certainly capable black men to function effectively in post. emancipation politics Moreover Afro Americans even when free before the Civil. War lived under handicaps Their accomplishment was all the more impressive and. therefore disproved the traditional image of blacks after slavery when they had. greater opportunity 3, The African background and Reconstruction received more attention than slavery. except as written from what Okon E Uya has labeled a catasthropic perspective 38. This approach focused almost exclusively on black suffering under slavery It des. cribed black people as being stripped of their African culture brutalized on the. plantations and reduced in self esteem It emphasized what slavery did to Afro. Americans and rarely traced how slaves sought to preserve their integrity as a people. There was little effort to understand the internal lives of the slaves Afro Americans in. bondage were actors only in the narrow range of slave uprisings and flight from. slavery In many respects the fugitive slave became the prototype for studying. bondage This was probably because the narratives and autobiographies of former. slaves who had escaped formed the major sources for probing the topic Even when. these sources were employed the story was one of infinite horror and final flight from. bondage Miles Mark Fisher made one of the few departures in analyzing slave songs. but his work also existed in the context of oppression and the desire to be free 39. Slavery took on greater proportion as a topic of inquiry after Stanley M Elkins. Slavery appeared in 1959 As white scholars progressively eschewed theories of racial. inferiority to explain Afro American inequality they turned increasingly to the legacy. of slavery interpretation In the Mark of Oppression Abram Kardiner and Lionel. Ovesey hypothesized that Afro Americans emerged from slavery without a culture. with no intrapsychic defenses no pride no group solidarity no tradition. They concluded that The marks of his previous status were still upon him socially. psychologically and emotionally And from these he has never since freed himself 40. Elkins elaborated this hypothesis by using the analogy of infantilization as derived. from the behavior of Nazi concentration camp inmates He suggested that slavery. produced a dominant personality type Sambo who was childish lazy irresponsible. and dependent Sambos were made not born through the process of shock in their. initial capture detachment from their homeland and culture and infantilization in. attachment to the absolute authority of the slavemaster their most significantother. The slavemaster as primary role model held their destiny in his hands He was the. patriarch and they his children not merely in role playing but in reality over time as. they internalized this behavior and instilled it in their progeny 4. Elkins analysis became all the more insidious as white social scientists in particu. lar tried to explain the persistence of black inequality Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan attributed Afro American status to the absence of middle class values and. norms among black people in general 42Moynihan later wrote that Three centuries. of injustice have brought about deep seated structural distortions in the life of the. Negro American At this point he continued the present tangle of pathology is. capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world The cycle can. be broken only if these distortions are set right 43Edward C Banfield boldly mused. that If there is something about Jewish culture that makes Jews tend to be upwardly. mobile there may be something about Negro culture that makes the Negro tend not to. 114 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, As the African background was acutely important for black historians before the. Civil Warand Reconstruction dominated the early twentieth century Slavery became. the central issue during the 1960s The work of black historians was again primarily. revisionist as white historians in the main had defined the topic Kenneth Stampp in. one of the sounder interpretations of slavery nevertheless opened his work with the. statement that innately Negroes are after all only white men with black skins. nothing more nothing less 45 Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman attempted a. statistical analysis to prove that slaves indeed shared middle class values of duty. hard work and upward mobility 46They erred however by subjecting slave behavior. to rational economic motivation within a coercive system Eugene Genovese tried to. strip Ulrich B Phillips idea of paternalism from its racism to describe the world the. slaves made 47His model of paternalism however still viewed slavery through the. slavemasters lens It did not adequately define the contours of Afro American culture. as it emanated from the slave quarters Too many white historians have been absorbed. in building historical models that ultimately provide greater insight into white society. John W Blassingame has noted that Traditionally white scholars have studied the. Negro only to amplify their knowledge of white men and white institutions 48The. work of black historians such as Blassingame Vincent Harding Nathan I Huggins. Leslie H Owens Albert Raboteau and Sterling Stuckey together with white histori. ans Herbert G Gutman Lawrence Levine Thomas L Webber and Peter Wood has. begun to penetrate the interior lives of the slaves and to outline a distinct Afro. American culture 49, These historians have undercut the legacy of slavery argument as the prime explana. tion of black inequality Their studies have demonstrated how black people produced. a viable culture to cope with slavery and to retain their integrity Afro Americans. developed a concrete culture with African antecedents in their family ties institutional. life religious values and worldview, The legacy of slavery and the persistence of Afro American oppression are now.
being examined against a backdrop of the South s political economy Economic. historians in particular have recently studied the South s underdevelopment its. plantation economy and its repressive political system that represented the interests. of large white landholders 50Black people of whom 86 6 lived in rural sections of. twelve southern states in 1860 and 83 3 in 1910 51 were caught in a lattice of. socio economic and political circumstances that prevented the broad capital forma. tion property holding political participation and skill acquisition that might have. enabled them to rise above the status they occupied as slaves. For the post 1960s era the African background Slavery and Reconstruction will. probably not loom as large as specific topics in Afro American historiography The. hidden hand revisionist contributionist cyclical and liberal interpretationshave lost. their urgency The hidden hand approach has basically been discarded as a historical. methodology Revisionism has receded especially as black historians themselves. increasingly define the terrain of Afro American historiography There will probably. always be a need to correct myths distortions and omissions about black people but. hopefully it will no longer preoccupy Afro American historians Revisionism is a. confining methodology because it operates within a paradigm established by others. They pose the questions determine the issues and in large measure define the. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 115. framework for debate Revisionists react to premises that often dictate the line of. argument Toni Cade Bambara in a passage from her novel The Salt Eaters graphi. cally elucidates this danger One of her characters reasons that the Negro people. werefours emphasis added and so long as they paid more attention to folks trying to. pen them in hem them in box them in on all four sides thinking they had them in. prison than to the work at hand why then they would never get a spare moment to. look up at the sun and build 52, The contributionist approach no longer retains its saliency especially in proving. that black people have been an integral part of the American landscape This approach. has generally concentrated on individual ratherthan group dynamics It has neglected. the interaction of different forces that have affected the black historical experience. Benjamin Quarles has reminded us however that Afro American history benefits a. number of publics It addresses the black masses to provide a sense of heritage pride in. the past and challenge for the future The emphasis here in large measure is on the. great personality although with some attention to group achievement In its explora. tion of past problems and solutions Afro American History offers background. information for black activists It serves black academicians and for them it has. a reflective judicial tone taking its cue from the careful winnowing and sifting. that preceded it Finally it informs a white audience about the real nature of this. country s past 53, These four publics present an awesome challenge to Afro American historians It. will take exceptional individuals to speak to them all simultaneously There will. probably have to be some division of labor among Afro American historians Many. will engage in primary research the miners seeking new information and ways to. interpret the past Others the refiners will relate this knowledge to broader audiences. Ideally the same practitioners might function in different arenas i e scholarly publi. cations the popular media and public forums Afro American historians above all. can not cloister themselves in ivory towers and become minutiae experts so with. drawn from reality that they can only converse with other specialists in the field. Afro American historiography must be more utilitarian than aesthetic as the Afro. American historian s purpose should be to examine the past as it relates specifically to. black people for greater understanding of the present and for informed decisions. about the future, There will probably continue to be a place for contributionism especially for black. youth They need didactic symbols for growth and development The masses. moreover are more apt to gain insight into the Afro American past through bi. ography Too much has been made of the dangers that Afro American historiography. might fall into myth making and hero worship C Vann Woodward in his 1969. Organization of American Historians presidential address warned against exaggera. tion or celebration of the obscure 54 Nathan I Huggins cautioned against creating a. fantasy of the impossible by imagining invincible black heroes He opined that it is far. better for blacks to understand their past realistically so that they will know where. they stand in relation to power and be able to judge the probable effects of their. action 55 It depends on whose vantage is used to determine their position For too. long it was the oppressor s point of view that made black struggle and victory seem. impossible Black youngsters do require heroic images to lift their sights beyond their. 116 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, immediate environment There are more than enough examples of black struggle. failure and achievement for this purpose They do not have to be invented. Black historians in the main have abandoned liberalism in their writing They do. not perceive the Afro American past as an inexorable procession toward freedom and. equality Moreover the notion of an American melting pot wherein different peoples. have become an ideal type has lost its worth as a means of examining the past There is. a greater tendency to criticize the American socio political and economic system not. solely for its exclusion of black people but also for its structural imperfections that. have allowed racism and class oppression to thrive Mary F Berry and A Leon. Higginbotham have indicted the American legal system for its conscious abuse of. black people 56 Huggins with the type of insight that black historians can not avoid as. they read the record has now concluded that America was born in tyranny 57Lerone. Bennett Jr has systematically explored the structuraland functional barriersto black. equality in the emerging American nation 58 Many black historians have heeded. Sterling Stuckey s injunction that It is the system itself which needs to be investigated. the system whose jails and prisons are almost bursting at the seams with black. prisoners He suggested that It is not the victim who is most in need of study it. is the executioner 59, Shorn of its reliance on divine providence the cyclical interpretation of the Afro.
American past has some heuristic value Historical events do not flow in a forward. unbroken line Nor do they ever return to the same point A spiralling or coiling. configuration might be a more appropriate analogy The civil rights era for example. has often been labeled the Second Reconstruction in comparison with the Recon. struction epoch from 1865 to 1877 60Both periods were times of intense efforts to. incorporate Afro Americans into American society Each also became fragmented as. the nation turned to other issues such as the economy women s rights Indian claims. and foreign affairs to mention a few Afro Americans during the twentieth century. moreover have enjoyed higher rates of employment when the nation is at war only to. be pushed out of the primary labor market when peace is restored In each of these. instances there has been the rhythm of gain consolidation and loss The events have. not been identical although the processes have been similar Black people have never. returned to the same position as in the rotation of an object around a set path There. has been absolute change in their status although relative change has been muted by. the advances of the society as a whole, The post 1960schallenge for Afro American historiography is how to balance what. Bennett has called the dialectical tension between the inner detail and the whole the. internal and external variables that have influenced the black historical experience 61. Afro American history has taken place within the context of American history but it. should not be overwhelmed by that fact It is much broader than the activities of the. American nation Events on the African continent and in the African diaspora have. profoundly affected Afro American thought and action The Haitian Revolution and. British abolition of slavery in the Caribbean touched Afro Americans more substan. tially than Jacksonian Democracy While Andrew Jackson broadened political partic. ipation for white Americans the Haitian Revolt gave courage to Afro Americans. They constantly invoked this example of black people rising up throwing off their. bondage and demonstrating their capacity for self government Martin R Delany. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 117. the antebellum black nationalist named one of his sons after the famed Haitian leader. Toussaint L Ouverture as did other Afro American parents 62The Haitian precedent. inspired Denmark Vesey s plans for the 1822 aborted revolt in Charleston South. Carolina 63, Throughout the North early Afro Americans observed August 1st the date of West. Indian emancipation as a special day July 4th held little significance for them 64. There has been a mutual relationship with Africa from Paul Cuffe s early voyage with. thirty eight emigrants through the antebellum emigration movement Bishop Henry. McNeal Turner s and the Black Church s activities the Pan African Congresses. Marcus Garvey the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and African liberation It has been. reciprocal with Africans and Afro Americans influencing each other over time 65As. African independence beginning with Ghana in 1957 inspired the Black Conscious. ness Movement it in turn activated black people in the Caribbean and in Southern. The web of Afro American history radiates beyond the United States borders It. exists within the core of two intersecting circles one this country and the other the. African world Pivotal points for examining the Afro American past can not there. fore be confined to the standard divisions of American history e g territorial expan. sion wars presidentialadministrations or reform movements A more sound apprais. al of the Afro American past must look specifically at migration and urbanization to. understand the internal dynamics of the Afro American historical experience without. losing sight of its external dimensions Migration from Africa to America from upper. South to lower South from predominantly white to predominantly black counties. from rural to urban settings in both South and North and from South to North and. West and in some instances South again provides a conceptual framework to analyze. the process by which Africans became Afro Americans Afro American culture. emerged and developed the status of black people became fixed in American society. black labor was exploited black people coped and survived and current problems. Earl E Thorpe has reflected that Each generation depending on its problems and. needs must select and arrange the specific facts which form the best system for its own. inspiration and guidance He has suggested further that It is because the past is a. guide with roads pointing in many directions that each generation and epoch must. make its own studies of history 66The writing of Afro American History has evolved. to the point that we are now able to sketch the conceptual and methodological issues. that give it a coherence of its own Moreover the place of Afro Americans in. American society and in a global context differs dramatically from beforehand and. therefore dictates a fresh appraisal As the presence of a viable Afro American culture. has become essential to understanding our past we need to give greater attention to its. content during different eras and in different locations. Although Harold Cruse has correctly criticized the failure of black intellectuals to. appreciate the dimensions of Afro American culture he has also noted that black. social development of real historical consequence has been urban development. whether North or South 67 This is a noteworthy concept especially for the mid. twentieth century but it ignores the rural base of Afro American social development. that prevailed much longer than the more contemporary urban setting Ira Berlin has. 118 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, recently explored the complexities and diversities of black life before the nineteenth. century in different times and places 68 He reveals the dynamic interactions as Afri. cans coalesced into Afro Americans The various disruptions of the black population. provided the opportunity for shaping modifying and consolidating shared values and. practices A conceptualization of Afro American History as an area of inquiry with its. own concerns emphasizes this process It examines the Afro American past from the. inside out with the black population its thought and actions as the independent. variable The intervening variable are those events within the United States and the. African diaspora And the dependent variable is the manner in which those two. vectors converge, Nell Painter has applied this approach with excellent results in the Exodusters 69. while Leon Litwack in Been in the Storm So Long has expertly probed the contradic. tions between the freedmen s desires and the planters expectations after the Civil. War 70 These prototypical works which reflect the maturation of Afro American. historiography employ a conceptualization whose starting point is the black popula. tion They demand a methodology that is sensitive to the thoughts and actions of. Afro Americans This means examining the records of the masses of black people as. well as what Painter has called the representativemen of color The imprints that the. masses have left upon the past take a variety of forms both literary and nonliterary It. is therefore essential to be familiar with Afro American music and folklore and to. understand the temperament of the black masses, Afro American historiography with its own conceptual and methodological con.
cerns is now poised to illuminate the Afro American past in a manner that will. broaden and deepen our knowledge of black people in this country The writing of. Afro American History is no longer undertaken principally to revise the work of. wrongheaded white historians to discern divine providence to show black participa. tion in the nation s growth and development to prove the inevitability of black. equality or to demonstrate the inexorable progress made by Afro Americans It is. conducted as a distinct area of inquiry within the discipline of history with black. people as its primary focus to reveal their thought and activities over time and place. Jay Saunders Redding The Negro in American History As Scholar As Subject in Michael. Kammen ed The Past Before Us Contemporary Historical Writingin the U S Ithaca New York 1980. p 290 For an examination of Black History squest for respectability see Earl E Thorpe The Uses of Black. History Raleigh North Carolina 1980 p 1, 2John W Blassingame The Afro Americans From Mythology to Reality in William H Cartwright. and Richard L Watson Jr ed The Reinterpretation of American History and Culture Washington D. C 1973 pp 53 54 72, 3John Hope Franklin The Future of Negro American History First Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture New School for Social Research New York City 1969. 4Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders New York 1968 p 207. 5Gunnar Myrdal An American Dilemma The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy 2 vols New. York 1944 This work set the tone in large measure for the race relations approach to Afro American. 6Negro History Bulletin 33 1 January 1970 p 20,7Life Magazine 65 21 November 22 1968 p 91. COMING OF AGE THE TRANSFORMATION OF AFRO AMERICAN 119. Herbert McArthur National Endowment for the Humanities Workshops in the Materials of Negro. History and Culture Wilson Library Bulletin 43 4 December 1968 p 353. 9Negro History Bulletin 32 5 May 1969 pp 21 22, To establish a National Commission on Negro History and Culture Hearings Before the Select. Sub Committee on Labor of the Committee on Education and Labor House of Representatives Ninetieth. Congress Second Session On House Resolution 12962 Hearing Held in New York City March 18 1968. Washington D C 1968 and Commission on Negro History and Culture Hearing Before the Special. Sub Committee on Arts and Humanities of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare United States. Senate Ninetieth Congress Second Session on Senate Bill 2979 July 23 1968 Washington D C 1968. Frances FitzGerald America Revised History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century Boston 1979. 2Thefollowing represent the types of work that were written during the period Carl N Degler Neither. Black Nor White Slavery and Race Relations in Braziland the United States New York 1971 George M. Fredrickson The Black Image in the White Mind The Debate on Afro American Characterand Destiny. 1817 1914 New York 1971 Winthrop D Jordan White Over Black American Attitudes Toward the. Negro 1550 1812 Chapel Hill 1968 Gilbert Osofsky Harlem The Making of a Ghetto New York. 1966 Benjamin Quarles Black Abolitionists New York 1969 Edwin S Redkey Black Exodus Black. Nationalist and Back to Africa Movements 1890 1910 New Haven 1969 Allan H Spear Black Chicago. The Making of a Negro Ghetto 1890 1920 Chicago 1967 V Jacque Voegeli Free But Not Equal The. Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War Chicago 1967 and Forrest G Wood Black Scare The. Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction Berkeley 1968. 3Harold Cruse The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual New York 1967. 4Malcolm X On Afro American History New York 1967, 5Arthur Schlesinger Jr Nationalism and History The Journal of Negro History 54 1 January.
1969 pp 21 29 30, 16C Vann Woodward Clio With Soul The Journal of American History 56 1 June 1969 p 18. August Meier Benjamin Quarles and the Historiography of Black America Civil War History 26 2. June 1980 p 115, E Franklin Frazier was the foremost Black proponent of this viewpoint See his The Negro in the. United States New York 1949, Vincent Harding Beyond Chaos Black Historyand the Search fora New Land in John A Williams. and Charles Harris eds Amistad I New York 1970 pp 267 92. 20John Hope Franklin From Slavery to Freedom A History of American Negroes New York 1947. 2 James W C Pennington A Textbook of the Origin and History etc of the Colored People Hartford. Connecticut 1841, 22Robert Benjamin Lewis Light and Truth Collectedfrom the Bible and Ancient and Modern Historv. Containing the Universal History of the Colored Man and Indian Race from the Creation of the Worldto. the Present Time Boston 1844, 23WilliamWells Brown The Black Man His Antecedents His Genius and His Achievements Boston.
24WilliamC Nell The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution Boston 1855. 25John Hope Franklin George Washington Williams and the Beginnings of Afro American Historio. graphy Critical Inquiry 4 4 Summer 1978 pp 657 72, 26George Washington Williams History of the Negro Race in Americafrom 1619 to 1880 New York. 27W E B DuBois The Gift of Black Folk The Negroes in the Making of America Boston 1924. 28Charles H Wesley Creating and Maintaining An Historical Tradition The Journal of Negro. History 49 1 January 1964 pp 13 33, 29ArthurA Schomburg Racial Integrity A Plea for the Establishment of a Chair of Negro History in. Our Schools and Colleges Negro Society for Historical Research Occasional Paper 3 1913. 30CarterG Woodson The Negro In Our History Washington D C 1922. 3 Lawrence D Reddick A New Interpretationfor Negro History The Journal of Negro History 22 1. Janaury 1937 pp 17 28, 32C Vann Woodward Flight From History The Heritage of the Negro The Nation 201 8 September. 20 1965 p 143,120 JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY,33Redding The Negro In American History p 291. 34Theprototypical work was Claude G Bowers The Tragic Era The Revolution After Lincoln Cam. bridge Massachusetts 1929, 35W E B DuBois Black Reconstruction New York 1935 pp 711 13.
36AlrutheusA Taylor The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction Washington D C 1924. The Negro in the Reconstruction of Virginia Washington D C 1926 and The Negro in Tennessee. 1865 1880 Washington D C 1941 John Hope Franklin Reconstruction After the Civil War Chicago. 37JohnHope Franklin The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790 1860 Chapel Hill 1943 Luther Porter. Jackson Free Negro Labor and Propertyholding in Virginia 1830 1860 New York 1942 and Richard R. Wright Jr The Negro in Pennsylvania A Study in Economic History Philadelphia 1912. 38OkonE Uya An Afro Centric Perspective on the Afro American Past in his African History Some. Problems in Methodology and Perspectives Ithaca New York 1974 p 21. 39Miles Mark Fisher Negro Slave Songs in the United States Ithaca New York 1953. 40AbramKardinerand Lionel Ovesey The Mark of Oppression A Psychosocial Study of the American. Negro New York 1951 pp 384 87, 41Stanley M Elkins Slavery A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life Chicago 1959. pp 1 26 81 139, 42Nathan Glazer and Daniel P Moynihan Beyond the Melting Pot The Negroes Puerto Ricans Jews. Italians and Irish of New York City Cambridge Massachusetts 1963. 43 United States, Department of Labor Office of Planning Policy and Research The Negro Family The. Casefor National Action Washington D C 1965 p 47, 44EdwardC Banfield The Unheavenly City The Nature and Future of Our Urban Crisis Boston 1970. pp 73 245 48, 45Kenneth M Stampp The Peculiar Institution Slavery in the Antebellum South New York 1956.
46Robert W Fogel and Stanley L Engerman Time on the Cross The Economics of American Negro. Slavery Boston 1974, 47Eugene D Genovese Roll Jordan Roll The World The Slaves Made New York 1974 For an. incisive critique on Genovese s work see James D Anderson Aunt Jemima in Dialectics Genovese on. Slave Culture The Journal of Negro History 61 1 January 1976 pp 99 114. 48John W Blassingame Black Studies and the Role of the Historian in his New Perspectives on Black. Studies Urbana 1971 p 217, 49John W Blassingame The Slave Community Plantation Life in the Antebellum South New York. 1972 Vincent Harding Religion and Resistance Among Antebellum Negroes 1800 1860 in August. Meier and Elliott Rudwick eds The Making of Black America Essays in Negro Life and History New. York 1969 pp 179 200 Nathan I Huggins Black Odyssey The Afro American Ordeal in Slavery New. York 1977 Leslie H Owens This Species of Property Slave Life Culture in the Old South New York. 1976 Albert J Raboteau Slave Religion The InvisibleInstitution in the Antebellum South New York. 1978 Sterling Stuckey Through the Prism of Folklore The Black Ethos in Slavery The Massachusetts. Review 9 3 Summer 1968 pp 417 37 Herbert G Gutman The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. 1750 1925 New York 1977 Lawrence W Levine Black Culture and Black Consciousness Afro. American Folk Thought From Slavery to Freedom New York 1977 Thomas L Webber Deep Like the. Rivers Education in the Slave Quarter Community 1831 1865 New York 1978 and Peter H Wood. Black Majority Negroes in Colonial South Carolinafrom 1670 Through the Stono Rebellion New York. 50Fora provocative review of recent literature see Jonathan M Weiner Class Structure and Economic. Development in the American South 1865 1955 American Historical Review 84 4 October 1979 pp. 5 T Lynn Smith The Redistribution of the Negro Population of the United States 1910 1960 The. Journal of Negro History 51 3 July 1966 pp 156 57, 52Toni Cade Bambara The Salt Eaters New York 1980 p 77. 53BenjaminQuarles Black History s Diversified Clientele Second Annual Rayford W Logan Lecture. Washington D C Howard University History Department 1971.


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