American History (1903-2015)


Race has been a historic issue in America, and it progresses to beto date. Excerpts from historic and current writers highlight theissues of segregation and unfair treatment because of color.Illustrations of these excerpts are W.E.B Dubois’ “Souls of BlackFolk”, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a BirminghamJail”, Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age in Mississippi” and BarackObama’s “Eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney”. Each ofthis writings expresses an understanding of the issue of race.

In the following discussion, the paper aims at comparing the author’sideas and experiences to demonstrate how the excerpts understand theissue of race as a problem in American history.

The excerpts expound on widespread racism in historic America andhow it continues to be the cause for inequality among blacks andwhites to date. Dubois book provides an analysis of the growth ofAfrican Americans, the challenges to growth and possibilities ofprospect growth from the 1900s as America crossed into the twentiethcentury. He introduces the concept of double consciousness, whichexplains how race is an issue in America’s past. In the “Soulsof Black Folk”, double consciousness is defined as the personalsensation of experiencing a division in identity. In the firstchapter, he notes “this double-consciousness, this sense of alwayslooking at one’s self through the eyes of others (Dubois 7)”.This makes it hard to identify with a single identity. Dubois talksabout the double consciousness in the perspective of race relationsin America.

His assertion is that because African Americans have grown in acommunity, which has historically subdued and failed to recognizethem, they are as a result incapable of unifying their black identitywith that of America. Double consciousness compels African Americansto see themselves as different and at the same time as white, thelatter being the perception of the outside world. He uses the blackartisan as an illustration of the conflict in identity. The artisanis incapable of deciding if to create goods that reflect his identityor those acceptable among the white community (Dubois 8-9). This canonly mean that being black has been shaped to becoming a problem. Inchapter nine, Dubois makes it clear that African Americans continueto be disadvantaged both politically and economically (Dubois 160).The lack of educational, social and economic support dates back tothe period after the civil battle. To date, defunding in black’spublic education continues to be widespread.

Race is a problem in American history because for years, AfricanAmericans have continued to be denied their rights. While Duboisexpresses how race has resulted in viewing being black as a problem,Martin Luther expresses widespread inequality in how blacks aretreated in the 1960s. He notes, “We have waited for more than 340years for our constitutional and God-given rights” (King 2). Atthis point Martin Luther expresses the many years that AfricanAmericans have progressed to be denied equal treatment. He wrote theletter at a period when there was widespread inequality in America.Blacks were not allowed to sit and eat in the same restaurants aswhites blacks were shot at and murdered by policemen and poverty dueto unequal opportunities was the life of African Americans. In hisletter, Martin Luther explains that blacks have been denied theirfreedom for so many years and that it is now time that they fight forequality. The wait for freedom has been long, yet there seems to beno certainty that the freedom will come by for blacks.

Martin Luther also introduces the feeling of “nobodyness” amongAfrican Americans (King 2). They have for years continued to be seenas unimportant in a society that sees being white as a privilege.King makes it clear that we are all equal as children of God. This isto mean that nobody should be made to feel less important throughunjust laws as the one enacted in Birmingham against blacks. Blacksare referred to as a nigger, while their middle name becomes boycompletely robbing them off their identity (King 2). The outcome hasbeen creating a society that depicts resentment for whom they are.People that instead of appreciating their identity feel it is a causeof their problems. As a result, they slowly begin to hate whites,making the issue of race more widespread in America. This letterprovides a basis for understanding that African Americans have for along time continued to be segregated and treated unfairly because oftheir color.

As the 1960s were coming to an end, civil rights movements resultedin remarkable success in line with major losses. Importantanti-discrimination laws were enacted yet society continued todiscriminate blacks. The movements were shifting away from MartinLuther’s nonviolent push for equality towards violence. This isproperly expressed in Anne Moody’s “Coming of Age inMississippi”. Moody, by telling her life story, demonstrates thesignificance of the civil rights movements in correcting injusticestowards African Americans. She demonstrates the battles that allSouthern blacks faced. Moody provides a historical outline of asignificant time in the history of America. She talks of a periodwhen African Americans were segregated in the south and civil rightswere more active than ever in fighting for equality with whites.

Race relations in America continue to be founded on racism. Racialprofiling towards blacks’ acts as evidence that the US progressesto be a place of discrimination for blacks. Moody’s writing is moreakin on explaining such discrimination that happened during thenineteenth and twentieth era. Her parents worked as sharecroppers,which was a manipulative system apparent in the reconstruction erareplacing slavery. She notes “we all lived in rotten wood two-roomshacks” (Moody 1). Moody was aged four at the time and highlightsthe intolerable living conditions for blacks. Possibly, most dramaticis her narration of “the electric lights were coming on in Mr.Carter’s big white house as all the Negro shacks down in the bottombegan to fade with darkness” (Moody 3). It is during themid-twentieth century, yet African Americans lack a basic need suchas electricity. It is a clear illustration of the denial of basicneeds for black families.

In Barack Obama’s “Eulogy for the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney”,he describes America as “a constant work in progress” (Kakutani1). In the speech, Barack Obama makes it clear that America still hasa long way to go in addressing the widespread inequality apparent inthe country. The inequality he notes is an issue that many before himtried to address. The eulogy employs the basis of history inintensifying the significance of the occasion. The Reverend wasmurdered by a white gunman together with other parishioners. Such anincidence can only remind society of how far African Americans havecome in fighting for justice. From the era of discrimination,slavery, unjust laws and yet there is still a long way to go indealing with intolerance and unfairness.

Mr. Obama presents history as a guide that people must use to avoidrepeating the similar mistakes. It is clear that race has always beenan issue in America. People have been treated either fairly orunfairly because of their color. The murder of the Reverend comparesto the historic burning on “Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel”(Kakutani 1). This was a church that was constructed by AfricanAmericans fighting for their freedom. Despite the struggle, blacksmanaged to rebuild it, and Martin Luther King preached at the sameplace. The eulogy makes it clear that although African Americans havemoved past the days of slavery and segregation in public places, thefight is not yet over until equality for all is achieved.

The issue of race is a problem in American history as is depicted inthese excerpts. The writers clearly express the struggle foridentity, freedom and equality by African Americans in a societywhere they are seen as unimportant. From historic times, being blackhas been viewed as a problem. As an African American one constantlyhas to struggle to fit in a society that idolizes being white. Also,there is the widespread inequality in accessing basic needs thatcontinue to be widespread to date.

Works Cited

Dubois, W.E.B. Souls of Black Folk. New York: Simon andSchuster, 2014.

Kakutani, Michiko. Obama’s Eulogy, Which Found its Place inHistory. The New York Times, July 2015. place-in-history.html?_r=0

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. The Dial Press. f%20Age%20in%20Mississippi.pdf

King, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail, (August 1963): 1-6.