Mr. Kenneth Watras
April 30, 2012
How have African-Americans worked to end segregation, discrimination and isolation to attain equality and civil rights?
African-Americans have been fighting to end racial discrimination and attain equality and their due civil rights ever since slavery began here in the United States. Slavery started many years before the first slaves came to the United States in the year 1619. Dutch and Portuguese explorers started slavery by kidnapping men, women and children from West and Central Africa. Many Africans lost their lives during the kidnappings in the initial struggle of fighting for their freedom and to remain in their native country. It was not uncommon for the newly kidnapped African slaves to rebel and to commit suicide as well. T.L. Snyder (2010), a Professor of American Studies at California State University in Fullerton, California wrote that “from the start of the transatlantic slave trade, mariners, merchants, and masters exchanged reports of slave suicide along with their human traffic, and they noted alarmingly that captive Africans often responded to enslavement by destroying themselves.” Slavery, for hundreds of years, would cause additional loss of life and suicide resulting from the destruction to the slave’s dignity and pride, the displacement from family and country, loss of personal freedom, brutal mistreatments of rape, whipping, shackles, poor hygienic conditions and inadequate nutrition provided by clave traders and slave masters. The enduring fight and struggles to end racial discrimination plus attain equality and civil rights will continue to be an ongoing battle for existing and future African-Americans as it was for their ancestors who fought for freedom and the injustice of slavery. The first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Slaves had no personal rights, were not considered as citizens and had no government representation. A slave could be bought or sold, was not allowed to own land and was not allowed to be educated. They had no control over who they were owned by, where they lived and illiteracy was common because very few ever learned to read or write. Jamestown in 1619 was a main harbor for trade ships dealing with the colonies of North America and a Dutch trading vessel traded several African slaves for food. Prior to slavery’s existence in the colonies and for a few years after, the wealthier people had those they considered as indentured servants, contracted servants or even native indigenous Indian slaves. Although there were many black immigrant indentured servants, most of these were the poor white immigrants or even criminals, consisting of men, women and children that may have been trying to repaying debts, criminal punishment requirements or they may have signed a contract to work. It would take several years, but with the new and large numbers of African slaves being sold into the North American territories indentured or contracted servitude would become almost non-existent. This is how many blacks became free blacks and were not considered to be slaves, although just the color of their skin would cause them to have to live under the shadow of slavery. The trading and purchasing of slaves would continue for many years without laws, until the colonial territory of Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize slavery in 1641. Over the next several years, many additional colonies would legalize slavery and construct new slavery laws and laws pertaining to free blacks as well. Some state laws allowed many of the free blacks to actually own black slaves of their own. Most slaves owned by black masters were purchased, but some blacks possibly received slaves as a gift with their freedom from a previous master or after indentured servitude. A new mulatto race is...