Seongwu Han ‘12
African American History II
Opposition to the End of Black History Thesis
The election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States surprised Americans as much as it did the world. The first African American and non-white to be in the White House, Barack Obama symbolized a major historical event, another step-forward toward racial equality in the history of America. Civil rights activists, experts in the racial conflict of the U.S., and many liberal citizens believed that Obama’s election means the realization of the ideas of black civil rights leaders, the completion of the Civil Rights Movement, the beginning of a post-racial society, and the downfall of multiculturalism. Indeed, many argued that the history of blacks’ struggles in America has ended. However, if one analyzes past leaders in African American history, one can find quite a few exceptional leaders in various ladders of society, from grassroots activists to nationally recognized public figures, who would have opposed the end-of-black-history group’s claims. Marcus Garvey of the UNIA, grassroots activist Ella Baker, and Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party were such leaders who would have regarded the group’s claims as near-sighted and immature. In the early 1920s, Marcus Garvey and his organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association gained national attention and prominence. He argued that unifying scattered people of African descent, inspiring racial pride, and ultimately creating a separate, independent country should be the goals of racial uplift. Garvey thought black people around the globe were oppressed because they were ‘scattered as an unmixed and unrecognized part’ in numerous nations and dependent upon the other races for kindness and sympathy. Through his UNIA, he sought to unify black people ‘not on domestic-national lines only, but universally’ and teach them self-help and self-reliance to achieve material prosperity by which he believed the progress of race is judged. To show the world that black people were capable of such progress, Garvey deemed that blacks required a new nation of their own that would provide the best environment in which they can show their abilities. Also, Garvey argued that the black leaders were heavily influenced by slave mentality and sought shelter and patronage of whites in their organizations for racial progress, thereby hindering the implementation of independence and racial pride. Garvey’s main themes are in great conflict with the view of the end-of-black-history group. The unification of all people of African descent is an almost impossible task in the current world. In every country and continent that black people live, they are divided into various social ladders of society and have different values and goals in life. The unification theory is the basic cornerstone of Garvey’s argument, and Obama’s election brought scattered people of African descent nowhere near being united. This is far from Garvey’s ideal black race that is ‘a united race with one moral code and principle’ Garvey would also point out that the unemployment rate of African Americans is too high and argue that the American society has not yet reached a post-racial society because blacks’ material prosperity, which works as the measurement of progress, of blacks does not equal that of whites. Although the fact that the African countries are independent may satisfy Garvey to a degree, the destructive civil wars, under-developed economies, and dependence upon international organizations would pose a question, whether Africa is really independent from the western society, to Garvey. He would argue that African race has been freed from oppression but is far from achieving self-reliance, stability, and development and the election of black president is far from the fulfillment of his ideals. Also, Garvey would have criticized Obama for taking a middle stance...
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