February 15, 2013
An Omitted History
African American history has been distorted for many years. "[T]he wider public of freedmen and freedwomen do not receive as much attention as one might wish in a book with a subtitle that promises a study of “popular politics.” (West, 2004). A lot of what is portrayed in history about African Americans has been the image of slave or criminal. Most times, history fails to show other images or accounts of minorities, especially African Americans, in post slavery America as being strong, family oriented or successful. Popular accounts of African American “strength” have included Marcus Garvey and the Pan-African Movement of the early 1900s and The Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 70s. Although these are more common subjects studied by historians, they often neglect to show the "celebration of education, marriage, the respectability of black women, and the promotion of interracial and interethnic solidarity and anti-imperialism"(McGinley, 2009). Propaganda and media control has allowed colonialism and imperialism to prevail until this day. Marcus Garvey and the Pan-African Movement of the Early 1900s "awakened African Americans to an understanding of the race problem as a common problem of the black man in the Atlantic world (Lewis 334)" (Fergus, 2010). Garvey was a learned man, Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery being a piece that deeply influenced Garvey’s way of thinking. In 1914, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities (Imperial) League, better known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association or UNIA. In this organization, there was the promotion of women’s empowerment which was “a revolutionary idea that recognized the leading role of women in the struggle against slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean" (Fergus, 2010). Race relations in the United States didn't improve for minorities at the turn of the century, at a time that was seen as the Progressive Era. African Americans were disenfranchised and continued to suffer from segregation, discrimination and violence in the form lynching and "white-capping". This type of environment was still prevalent in the South for many more decades. Blacks struggled to develop their own communities and economies on top of effort to reform black representation. Attempts to "subvert dominant representations of black women” (Williams, 2006) were given by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and their magazine The Crisis which featured "well-dressed, educated, and primarily light-skinned African American women on its covers" (Williams, 2006). "Post-slavery colonialism allowed few opportunities for peoples of African descent to escape the globalized systems of economic exploitation and deprivation of civil and political liberties" (Fergus, 2010). The Black Panther Party of the 1960s addressed many of these problems that continued to swell from decades before. By this era, many frustrations began to come out with youth like the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton. The youth of this era took heed to the words and struggles of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B Du Bois. The Panthers developed and offered free programs and services to the Black community including health care, education and criminal justice. Yet, historians like Ryan J. Kirkby, a writer for the Canadian Review of American Studies, agree that many positive and uplifting aspects of Black History has been neglected when he says that "omission[s] by scholars has led to some distortions in the telling of the Black Panthers’ history" and that the Black Panthers’ "importance to the revolutionary struggle has frequently gone unnoticed." With much activism taking place across the country, the controlled media continued to paint a negative picture about these groups and movements. Critics of the Black Panthers...