How Black History Has Shaped The African American Experience

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    (Duke Ellington at the piano.)

    Black history shaped, and continues to shape the African American experience in the United States. For most of United States’ history, African American experience and culture developed outside of mainstream American culture. Black history, its contributions, and impact on the African American experience resulted from the many influences of slavery and ongoing racial discrimination throughout the United States.

    Black history, in the forms of African culture, slavery, and the civil rights movements shaped, and continues to shape, the African American experience through religious practices, familial and community systems, political position, and economic behaviors.

    For most of America’s history, legal and social discrimination shaped and denied African Americans access to education and literacy. Institutionalized discrimination combined with rich African and slave traditions contributed to the retention and cultivation of a strong oral tradition that survives to this day in the African American experience. In this way, the strong oral tradition that permeated black history continues to enrich the religious, political, and business worlds of the African American experience and continues to transform mainstream American culture and experience.

    The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s is one of the first and most important cultural movements in black history. As one of the first major recognitions of African American music, literature, and art, the works of African American authors, poets, and musicians of the day rooted African American experience in American culture and continues to shape it, even today.

    The Harlem Renaissance not only impacted African American cultural identity but was also an important period of increased political involvement in black history. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the United Negro Improvement Association are only two of the important political associations that shaped the African American experience and continue to thrive today.

    Years of institutionalized discrimination and the civil rights movement that brought its demise, are hugely important elements of black history. The wake of the non-violent civil rights movement produced the Black Arts Movement. The Black Arts Movement saw the rise of music and literature that reflected and embraced a pronounced political and racial consciousness. In many ways the 1960s and 1970s was a period of black history where African Americans made major strides toward equality while simultaneously embracing their unique African and American history. In doing so, the African American experience was shaped by rich cultural, economic, political, and religious movements and people that refused to be minimized by the larger mainstream culture.

    The Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement are only two of many periods in black history that have shaped the African American experience. To fully understand the impact of African culture, the institution of slavery, the civil rights movement, and post civil-rights movement black history would, and does, take up countless books, articles, albums, speeches, and every other cultural outlet. TNJ strives to embrace the richness of black history and the ways in which our shared past continues to shape the African American experience today.