Described as American citizens and residents of African origins, African Americans make up about 13% of US population. Majority of the African-Americans in the united sates are direct descendants of many of the slaves that survived the period of slavery before its abolition (Marger 173). The other group consists of African-Americans sired by immigrants from the African continent, particularly the sub-Saharan region, and other regions such as the Caribbean, which have predominantly black populations. African Americans have generally been defined by the darker color of their skin; a distinguishing feature from other races.
As a united country, the US is home to many racial and ethnic groups, subsequently possessing a wide racial and ethnic diversity including native Indians, Asians, Chinese, Hispanics, and Jews: together with ethnic groups from Europe such the Irish, Scottish, and Italians as well as African Americans (Miyares and Airriess 4). This diversity has served to mould the image and shape of the country’s past and progress. In spite of this ethnic group being relatively small in comparison to the dominant white race, African-Americans have had significant impact on the nation’s history and many sectors of the nation’s development including politics, economy, civil rights, education, religion, arts, values, recreation and language.
Among minority groups in the United States, none could compare to African-Americans’ involvement in the country’s politics. Not only does the group have the highest representation in congress among minority groups, current president of the United States of America, Barrack H. Obama, comes from the community. As noted by Kaba and Ward 30, black Americans have been actively involved in politics and related issues at all levels since the days of civil rights movement in the 1960s. Buoyed by such charismatic leaders as martin Luther King Jnr., African-Americans took the opportunity to voice their concerns over their rights, demanding their due rights as equal citizens of the country (King 177). Equality extended to all aspects of the nation. With politics providing a better avenue of gaining power, other black leaders like Malcolm X pushing for Black power advocated for more representation in the political arena.
It is however, notable that African Americans greatly participated in politics prior to the end of the 19th century through the abolition movement to end slavery. Abolition movements gave rise to political figures among the black community under slavery, with able political leaders including Frederick Douglass, a great orator of the time. US politics was divided in the 1850s and 60s with abolitionists pitted against the pro-slavery advocates leading to the signing of the emancipation proclamation by president Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that decreed freedom to the slaves in all states ending with Texas in 1865. Towards the beginning of the twentieth century, Booker T. Washington took the mantle as the fore political leader of the group. His political participation also involved a number of the elite white community that served to advance the black’s call for emancipation from racial prejudice and other ills that plagued the people.
Black movements of the twentieth century and their subsequent involvement in politics had a major influence in the country’s social and economic scene. It is from the calls for equity and equality among the races, specifically the black and white races, made by the black leaders in the 1960s that served to create a more homogenous country that is the United States today. These political movements attained liberty, not only concerning racial problems, but also within other social and economic aspects of the country. African Americans’ ardent participation in the country’s political scene bore fruit to all minority groups which in essence benefited from the higher social status; improving their access to better facilities and country resources after gradual elimination of racial segregation.
Assimilation of the African Americans in the American society had proved to be a challenge for the group from the early days of slavery. This resulted from a dominant racial stereotype that the blacks, as were other colored races, were inferior to the racially superior white people. In addition to this, the white community had a wrong perception that that any mixing of the two races in marriage would weaken their racial group. The gradual and progressive nature of assimilation also meant that unique cultural practices and traditions among the minority groups were at risk of being lost in the process of integrating with the dominant racial group; an irredeemable loss (Bankston 838).
African Americans have assimilated into the American society through interracial marriages; a unifying factor among families and communities of the two involved partners. Achieving a high level of structural assimilation into the American society has resulted from active participation in national political and socio-economic issues as denoted by Bankston (967). Current conditions point towards further social and racial integration in the future, among all ethnic and racial groups in the United States.
Predominantly black churches are a legacy from the days of segregation, as are some of the predominantly black schools and neighborhoods. The Jim Crow legislations served to put in force racial segregation, serving to entrench it into the American. Consequently, African American leaders built many churches for the African American Christians in the early 1900s. African Americans have mainly been Christians and followers of protestant churches; these include the Baptist churches of America and Methodists. Charismatic pastors of the African origin have gone to be instrumental in pushing for Christian growth within the country at present time. On the other side, relatively smaller proportions of the total black population are adherents to the Islam faith, greatly in part due to influence from the Black Nationalist movements of the 1950s and 60s.
By the turn of the 21st century, African Americans as a collective group had made huge advances in literacy levels, in spite of being behind other groups such as the Asian Americans and the white. However, fewer of the black Americans ever made it past high school, a trend that has continued from post civil era. Illiteracy is one of the reasons that had served to keep the African Americans under the York of slavery and servitude (Marger 180). Denial of access to education in the era of slavery, posed a great challenge for many of the freed slaves to cater for themselves after gaining freedom. Low literacy levels among this ethnic group resulted to continued reliance on their former slave masters for survival, compounded by the fact that most did not own property. Racial segregation posed further challenge in the 20th century, forcing the emergence of predominantly black schools established to provide education to young African Americans (King 35).
Racial stereotypes carried over from the slavery days also subjected many of the African Americans pursuing higher education to derision with notions that the black community and its people were un-teachable. Leaders had seen the need for education, perceiving it knowledge as the real weapon for emancipation, providing fuel for the community to foster and facilitate their education which was however hampered by the little access offered to African Americans in the elite colleges and universities prior to prohibition of segregation (Bankston 43). They overcame these difficulties by pulling resources to establish their own schools.
Some individuals such as Marva Collins in Chicago took the onus on themselves to provide resources demanded by school projects and further encouraged the students to learn and make achievements beyond social expectations. Despite the fact that they were labeled as learning disabled by the public school structure and system, a notion that had been generally accepted by the African Americans themselves, students from her private schools showed excellent performance and academic ability.
This served to put to rest many of the racial prejudices concerning education of the African Americans as well as other minority races (Kaba and Ward 56). Notable figures from the ethnic group have earned a place in the American society in the 20th and 21st century and the academic fields; a large group that would include Dr. Ben Carson - a renowned neuro-surgeon and Prof. Augustus A. White – Harvard’s first African American chief at the hospital’s teaching department. Others include former US secretary of state Condolleza Rice, NASA’s current administrator Charles Bolden Jnr., and Eric Holder, the current US attorney general among many others.
The growing group of educated black Americans has served to change the stereotypes and remnants of racial labels used against African Americans in the past by other ethnic and racial groups. Intelligence and academic ability displayed by many of the serving black professionals in diverse fields of discipline and service has clearly outlined to all that, aspects of human surpass color and racial boundaries (Kaba and Ward 33). The future paints a better picture for many of these students as prestigious learning institutions accept them based on their ability and character.
Growth in education has fostered growth in all other major sectors of the American society including the country’s economy. A large number form part of the country’s civil service and the private sector. African Americans now have greater opportunity in businesses, with many entrepreneurs venturing into all economic sectors including zones that previously dominated by whites such as banking, media and real estate.
Advances made by African Americans in other disciplines have generally served to propel their performance in other fields including sports, languages, business and arts. Overcoming slavery and racial segregation took great effort and sacrifice. Attaining higher literacy levels has not been an easy task either compounded by other challenges including high rates of violent crime and proliferation of illegal drugs. However, progress ahs been made that has ensured emergence of influential figures from the ethnic group in contemporary American society. Assimilation and acceptance of African Americans have increased their participation in all national issues and sectors. The United States has attained great performance in international sports circles especially in athletics, partly in large due to contribution from their participation since Jesse Owens amazing wins in 1936 Olympics.
Understating the impacts made on the country by the ethnic group as is a near impossibility, as their influence extend far much deeper into the political, economic, technical and social fabric of the country. All ethnic groups have influenced the country irrespective of their number, with African Americans’ influence being notable because of their history and difficult challenges they have faced. Having attained such prominence in the American society and national issues, the future looks even better for their involvement in the country’s interest.