African American History
13 May 2022
A Search for Equality
My understanding of African American history in this course was greatly enhanced, as it went into many aspects of the subject throughout history. By attending several of the programs offered, my understanding of this subject was better understood for the more present-day topics of African American history from different points of view. The program that I attended that most stood out to me and made my understanding of African American history more excellent was “We Want to Revolution: African American Young Adults and the Politics of Vulnerability,” given by Cath Cohen. The themes discussed in this program are essential to our understanding of African American history. It goes more in-depth into the more recent history than the earlier history, as we have discussed in class. It dives into the problems African Americans face today and in recent years, which is an excellent transition to what we have seen in class, where we have talked about how African Americans have struggled since being shipped as slaves to America.
This program mainly focused on racism in recent history by using surveys taken by young adults of different races and ethnicities. Ms. Cohen, in the program, took a deep dive into African Americans and their struggles. One of the significant points in the slides was that African Americans’ most important struggle faced is racism. 24%, according to the surveys taken, of African Americans say that racism is the most important problem being faced today in this country. Cathy Cohen also went into the freedom of speech. A part of the survey was that most African Americans opposed that groups can hold parades. However, the survey included “even if they represent causes most Americans oppose, such as communism, Nazis, and white supremacy.” Even though African Americans desired freedom of speech all of their lives when they were enslaved, here, they do not want other ethnicities holding parades that can be racist towards them. Since it said “white supremacy” on the survey, that was was took most blacks away. It is very ironic because when people want freedom for all, blacks don’t want it because they are afraid of being racially abused, and when blacks don’t have freedom, as seen in the early parts of this course, they want the freedom to have their voice heard. In the book and in class, we also saw how enslaved African Americans were also affected by white supremacy and how it affected their freedom. We saw this when seeing the topic of “Slave Religion.” Some slaves did this to escape from slavery, but most just did it to take a break and put their minds and thoughts somewhere else. As we talked about in class, whites began to take control of their religions due to growing abolitionism. As stated in the book Freedom on My Mind, “Even blacks who worshipped alongside whites or received religious instruction from their masters tended to distrust white Christianity,” therefore, as a result, they had to create what they called invisible churches (White 369). Slaves really enjoyed the story of “the Old Testament’s book of Exodus, which tells of how Moses freed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt” (White 370). Which related back to my point that slaves enjoyed going to practice religion because it also gave them hope to be free, like in the story of Exodus. This relates to the stat given in the program because today, African Americas do not want complete freedom of speech because they fear there will be many things said of white supremacy. When African Americans were slaves, they did not like White Supremacy, and they looked to the church to escape it. However, it did not really work, as whites controlled that as well.
As a result of lack of freedom and racial abuse in today’s day in age, many African Americans look for different ways to make racial progress. In Ms. Cathy Cohen’s presentation, she gives a stat of the survey on the best way to make racial progress according to different races. According to African Americans, the best way was a revolution, which was what 19% of the African Americans polled answered. None of the other three ethnicities or races polled had a revolution in their top three. Relating to my last paragraph on freedom for African Americans, one of the slides of the program it stated, “Black young adults who believe revolution is the best way to make racial progress are less likely to agree that they feel like a full and equal citizen compared to those who chose another method.” African Americans feel like the answer to racial inequality is revolution, and as said in the quote, those same people don’t feel they are equal citizens. As we see it today, it was also seen with slaves, as explained in the book the Haitian Revolution. The Haitian Revolution took place in what is now present-day Haiti and what was French territory. Slaves decided to revolution across the colony. As stated in the book, slaves “numbered 100,000, burned their plantations, executed their owners, and shut down sugar production in Haiti, then one of the world’s largest sugar producers” (White 284). This led to the French losing control of Haiti. Relating to the United States, many slaves were sparked by this, and slave owners got terrified, “the more recent Haitian Revolution underscored the possibility that an enslaved people could overthrow their oppressors” (White 294). For example, it led to Gabriel’s Rebellion. This enhances my understanding of African American history because revolution was never what I would’ve thought to do if someone is racially abusing me. However, when connecting to the book and past events, it makes more sense. This program opened my eyes that African Americans are more racially abused statistacally than an average latin teenager.
These revolutions are still evident in some form today. We see this through the Black Lives Movement in more recent history. Even though this isn’t a phyisical war that involves killing, it is still a more peaceful revolution that fights for more equality. In an interview, Cathay Cohen gives her opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement. She argues that femenism is also being fought for in the movement. She says in the interview that, “ I think feminism is informing the movement for black lives in terms of how it’s structured and its leadership. There’s some important feminist work that tells us that there are different forms of leadership that we should be paying attention to” and that “Radical black feminists, in particular, have argued that while immediate policy changes can be part of what we fight for, the structural transformation of the lived condition of marginal communities has to guide our struggle” (Cohen and Jackson). Coming, from a black woman it is a very viable source, and the argument she makes a lot of sense. She also said in the interview that she has seen that more young African Americans have emerged as young leaders, who have taken feminism and women classes. This relates back to the revolution stat from the program because many African Americans join the Black Lives movement to fight for their rights and their freedom. This is what Cathy Cohen argues here in her interview. She is saying that African Americans fight for their freedom as well as for women’s rights, and coming from an African American woman, that is a very trustful point of view.
Cathy Cohen’s presentation, “We Want to Revolution: African American Young Adults and the Politics of Vulnerability,” really made me dive deeper into my understanding of African American history. Her political-based argument gave me another perspective from what we have seen in class. I could also relate it very smoothly to topics we have seen in class and that could make me understand the program even more by relating the present day to past African American history.
Cohen, Cathy J., and Sarah J. Jackson. “Ask a Feminist: A Conversation with Cathy J. Cohen on Black Lives Matter, Feminism, and Contemporary Activism.” The University of Chicago Press Journals, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/685115.
White, Deborah Gray, et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, With Documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020.