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African Americans

The African American (black) experience has been  one uniquely marked by slavery, segregation, and persistent discrimination. There is a lack of consensusabout whether African American or black is the more appropriate term to refer to the 39.7 million Americans of African descent who live in the United States today. Those who prefer the term black point out that it incorporates many African-descent groups living in this country that do not use African American as a racial or ethnic self-description. For example, many people who trace their origins to Haiti. Puerto Rico. or Jamaica typically identify themselves as “black” but not as ”African American” (Cashmore, 1996). . Although the earliest African Americans probably arrived in North America with the Spanish conquerors  n the fifteenth century. most historians trace their arrival to about 1619. when the first groups of in dentured s ervants were brought to the colony of Virginia. owever. by the 1660s. indentured servanthood had turned into full- fledged slavery with the enactment of laws in states such as Virginia that sanctioned the enslavement of African Ameticans. Although the initial  tatus of persons of African descent in this country may not have been too different from that of the English indentured servants. all of that changed with the passage of laws turning human beings· into property and making slavery a status from which neither individuals nor their children could escape (Franklin. 1980)

Between 1619 and the 1860s. about 500.000 Africans  were forcibly brought to North America. primarilyto work on southern plantations. and these actions were justified by the devaluation and stereotyping of African Americans. Some analysts believe that the central factor associated with the development of slavery in this country was the plantation system. which was heavily dependent on cheap and dependable manual labor. Slavery was primarily beneficial to the wealthy southern plantation owners. but many of the stereotypes used to justify slavery were eventually institutionalized in southern custom and practice (Wilson. 1978). However. some slaves and whites engaged in  active resistance against slavery and its barbaric practices.eventually resultingin slavery being outlawed in the northern states by the late 1700s. Slavery continued in the South until 1863. when it was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation (Takaki. 1993 Segregation and Lynching Gaining freedom did  not give African Americans equality with whites. African Americans were subjected to many indulges because of race. Through informal practices in the North and Jim Crow laws in the South. African Americans

experienced. segregation in housing. employment. education. and all public accommodations. (The Jim Crow laws were named after a derogatory song about
a black man.) African Americans who did not stay in their “place” were often the victims of violent attacks and lynch mobs (Franklin. 1980). Lynching is a k; ling
carried out by a group of vigilantes seeking revenge for an actual or imagined crime by rl.e .ctim, Lynchings were used by whites to intirnida.r Afican Americans into staying “in their place:’ It is that as many as 6.000 lynchings occurred b.t M~en 1892 and 1921 (Feagin and Feagin. 2008). In spite of all odds. many

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