The period of 1850 to 1915 offered great historical experience to the African American in the United States. It was characterized by historic events that served to change the course of the African American from that of being dominated upon in economic, social, and cultural affairs to that of emancipation in these areas. This essay explains why the experience is best described as a historical change rather than an historical continuity.
During the period under examination, the African American culture changed significantly. Families did not take meals times as family time and have conversations on the table during meal times. It was very odd to find a whole family in a house having meal at the same time (Washington p.114).
Another notable change was in churches, where the emancipation of the African Americans from slavery resulted in a movement of churches that were mostly Baptist (Johnson p.135) that developed a district characteristic in worship that previously was only noticed in songs sung from generation to generations in their houses.
New freedoms allowed the African American to incorporate his tradition in their church and this attracted various people into the church ministry such that there was a notable increase in formation of new churches during this period (Du Bois p.121-123).
African Americans during this period started gathering in public, especially on Sundays when there were no work in the field. Washington writes that women spent their leisure Sunday afternoons in the towns, with the excuse of going shopping (p.115). African Americans could now be able to participate and get involved with other Americans as equals even though they still faced some prejudice (Johnson p.13).
They attended schools together with other Americans and participated in sports and other activities up to a national level. Another first for African Americans was that they now could interact with other Americans based on what they were and not what the color of their skin was. This was also characterized by newer choices of careers that previously were not known to be adopted by African Americans especially in art (Johnson p.59 & 104).
Another significant experience for African Americans was formation of their own institutions which allowed them to advance their cultural interests. Newer schools that were formed incorporated the importance of the African American history in their curriculum to teach character. African Americans started their own schools, or gained control of the running of their own schools and therefore for the first time they were able to incorporate studies that they saw as important to their progression both socially and economically.
This changed their course towards that of more civilization and hope for the future. Few African Americans who were able to graduate through the formal schooling became as role models and examples to others and were instrumental in altering the negative behaviors that characterized African American communities such as lynching by mob.
By offering examples of proper ways of conduct and showing the results through their ability to participate and contribute significantly among the white community and others, the few became role models. The few such as Booker T. Washington through public speaking gained influence among the elites and rich people in the country and were able to use the influence to ask for favors such as funding for their community institutions (Washington p.146).
For the first time, in history of Africans Americans, they were able to acquire land for productive agricultural use (Washington p.138), and even though they did not possess adequate skills of business, they were able to shadow this by their frivolous attempts at increasing production (Dubois p.106). Other than owning land for production, some became despots as they learnt skills in business through implicit apprenticeship from their other American counterparts (Du Bois p.92).
The rest could now engage in various kinds of labor for a wage which allowed them to obtain goods and services that previously were out of reach, such as education. The south, largely occupied by African Americans and their former owners, largely adopted cotton growing, and because the crop’s market price was stable throughout the year, it allowed most African American families to have steady incomes that further contributed to development of their own institutions and homes (Du Bois p.98).
Cottage industries also gained foot among their homes especially for women who were housewives. Various homes obtained sewing machines to do dressmaking, however most impact was recognized when other American sometimes recognized the high quality of products made by African American cottage industries (Washington p.113). For example the Tuskegee School made building bricks that their white neighbors preferred and purchased citing their quality as the reason for doing so (Washington p.153).
It is not enough to say that the period under examination in this essay was a mere continuity of the African American course. I have shown that a lot of change happened to the African American that previously was unimaginable. Most change was as a result of pioneering by individuals, and cannot be described as continuity but as a change from the norm.
Dubois, William Edward Burghardt. The Souls of Black Folk. Forgotten Books, 2008.
Johnson, Weldon James. The Autobiography of an Ex-colored man. Filiquarian Publishing LLC, 2007
Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery; an Autobiography. Forgotten Books