How African Americans Took Advantage of Disadvantages

Understanding the true history of African Americans in this country is something that will inevitably take you back to times of African tribes and recolonization. African Americans are a unique group of people with an interesting ethnic background. By studying and divulging myself into this course I have seen how African Americans have taken their disadvantages and turned them around into their favor by overcoming the institution of slavery and creating their own businesses, schools, and social organizations after the reconstruction period and into present day.

The major themes that define the African American experience post-reconstruction have been systematic oppression in the form of institutionalized racism as well as segregation.My ancestry is something that I am extremely proud of. Being a product of an African American woman and a Guinean man, my ancestry is diversely different than a majority of my peers.

Being half French Guinean has given me a sense of deeply rooted pride in my African culture and has also allowed me to have a more in depth connection to the motherland.

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As African Americans, we were brought to this country in bondage, treated as animals and immersed into white culture. Our centuries old traditions and culture were washed away and dismantled as we were unknowingly brought to a new land. (Hine, 12.1) Many of the customs we once practiced in our African civilizations were mocked and the Europeans tried and eventually succeeded in the white washing of our culture and in forcing us to adapt to theirs. Documents such as the Willie Lynch Letter aided in giving slave owners explicit directions regarding how and why to break down the psychological mindset of a slave.

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These tactics included embedding colorism into our community, breaking apart our family units, and instilling fear into the minds of the bondaged.  The letter also suggests to erase all evidence of the mother tongue and traditions. This mindset, enforced by people who considered Africans subhuman, still has negative impacts on the African American experience today in 2018. The African American family unit has been doomed since our kidnapping from our mother land. Families were torn apart and sold to opposite ends of this country and no uniform, solidified support system was available. Many of our issues today can be traced to the harmful psychological impact of slavery and most likely linked to the abusive conditions we had to endure to both our body and mind. While I am fortunate enough to have insight on my father’s lineage, on my mother’s side I have been quite unsuccessful in tracing my roots.

I am aware that as with most African Americans who may try to trace their roots, our ancestors were treated as property and inadequate records were taken to help us to efficiently trace where we come from. This makes things extremely difficult and goes to show how much of a harmful impact slavery had on us as a people and how much that impact is still evident in our community today.African-American social issues date back to the eighteenth century- set up for failure from start, our community has always been behind. An acre and a mule we were promised post emancipation, yet never received and white people were able to live off the land and resources we maintained for them. They were provided with free labor for almost four hundred years while African-Americans were oppressed and rarely educated.

Attempting to stick together we were thrown in the poorest of areas, these communities would eventually become ghettos and boroughs inhabited only by minorities.  This started in the twentieth century and still continues, while our real problem is lack of support in our government as well as years of legalized racism.Even amongst adversity and the turbulence of our past, we continued to persevere and founded many institutions such as churches, fraternities, sororities, schools, and other high social organizations. These organizations were simply the result of us creating doors and opportunities where they ceased to exist. We took our limited resources and did the best we could to alleviate the segregation and separation the racist system had placed upon us.

Most importantly, these organizations helped to uplift our community and encourage a positive identity that promoted unity and are still in effect to this day.An early breakthrough against the institutionalized racism African Americans faced in this country was the adaptation of the 15th Amendment. Being black in the 1860’s meant you couldn’t do many things that you wanted to. The whites were pretty much jealous that you were going to be better and smarter than them, so multiple things were limited such as voting. The 15th amendment gave the black community a voice to be heard but also for changes that could be made. They were finally given the same rights as the white people. It wasn’t until the enforcement acts came into play before they didn’t have to take tests to vote. Although it made them feel better, this amendment only gave black men the rights to vote; restricted to just eight northern states. The amendment didn’t say anything about woman having the right to vote, so men made sure that they could take advantage of this as much as possible.

An additional example of success against systematic oppression for African Americans were the Tuskegee Airmen. African Americans have been struggling since the beginning of time for greater roles, especially in the military. The opportunities were limited for them, despite the fact that African Americans were fighting for this country before they were considered people. White people speculated that Black Americans didn’t have the “skills” to be successful enough to fly a plane. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African Americans that were able to successfully complete their training. These Airmen strived to be better than great and wanted to achieve equal rights. They had to overcome a lot of racism to fly and participate in combat. Not only were they doubted about the ability to fight, but they also had to master the technology of complex machines.

These men made a difference in the African American society and more than 10,000 military and civilian African American men and women served following their footsteps.  The success of the Tuskegee Airmen proved to America that African Americans, when giving huge opportunities will take it and run with them. They were very effective military leaders and pilots.Another instance of African Americans resisting oppression and segregation was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The bus boycott took place during the civil rights movement and this process occurred in Alabama’s capital city. They were blessed with organized educational systems, religious and other institutions, and the community of 45,000 who were unknowingly changing the narrative of history forever.

This boycott caught the attention of an entire nation and didn’t go unnoticed. The boycott set a specific tone for the entire rights movement. The boycott had its many ups and downs and then finally in November of 1956, the US Supreme court declared that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional.  The boycott was a highlighted event of the civil rights movement which was during the span of the 1950’s and 60’s. This event lasted more than a year and gave Martin Luther King a position of leadership which showed nonviolent methods of protesting can be effective.African Americans are also now assuming roles and breaking down barriers that were deemed impossible a mere fifty years ago. No longer being confined to jobs as housekeepers or cooks, ballers or crooks, it is now more and more common to meet an African American CEO, artist, stockbroker, and doctor.

It’s amazing to me that a people that used to only count as 5/8 of a person, be whipped and chained and degraded are now the senators and lawmakers of the very country where their ancestors suffered. We even have elected an African American president, something many of our ancestors never thought they’d see. The saying, “You can not know where you are going until you know where you have been.” is extremely relevant and it is extremely disheartening to know that even though we, as African Americans have come a mighty long way, we still have strides to make to insure our equality and preserve our culture. By educating myself on our history, I was faced with a more clear and concise history of our past; one that included our trials as well as our victories.

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How African Americans Took Advantage of Disadvantages. (2022, Jan 05). Retrieved from

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