Black History Reading Blog (1)

Portrait_of_Alain_LeRoy_Locke
A portrait of Alain LeRoy Locke, likely one of my most favorite figures in African American history. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

I finally found a sound use for my blog! My His 204 class, or my African American history class, requires me to keep a weekly blog on my readings of the book “Creating Black Americans” (Oxford). “Each week,” reads my assignment sheet, “you are required to write a public  blog post discussing your reading progress.” (my emphasis). Today, I will begin that great discussing. I will pose questions, thoughts, concerns, and answers to questions (mostly preliminary) regarding my readings.

Comments and thoughts are encouraged. These comments and thoughts even include my teacher, Professor Tinkle-Williams (please comment professor! Your thoughts will be valued!).

Anyways, I’m not sure exactly how I want to answer the posed questions on my assignment sheet. Each week will likely be something a little different. But without further collaboration, I begin blog post 1 of my new mini series of black history in America.

Basic Review of the Chapter

This chapter is mainly about African Americans claiming their African identity. Painter delves into many different subjects to convey his position. I really enjoyed the sections that spoke about art. I was even more inspired, however, about the sections regarding the struggle for African American scholarship. I have always admired intellectuals, black or otherwise, who helped develop and change the image of their culture for the better.

Also, I thought that the role that art has played in history was pretty fascinating as well. For instance, when Alain Locke encouraged his followers to “embrace African” (Painter 12), I was pretty inspired by this, because it helped African Americans to distance themselves from the negative caricatures that were so often attributed to them during these periods of American history. Also, the creation of The New Negro was pretty interesting as well (The New Negro was a paper that discussed black history and showcased black artwork and had thousands of readers in the 1920’s).

I really enjoyed the sections about African Americans creating their own “Afrocentric” identity. Africans creating (or discovering) their own culture within the Americas seemed to be pretty interesting. They made their own version of Africa in the face of race and insult. They also took pride in their ancient African ancestry, which was later known as Ethiopianism. They believed that Ancient Egypt, Cush, and Ethiopia made up the “Negro race.”

Because Egypt had been talked about so highly, this was good for “negro” self esteem.

Three Memorable Quotations From the Reading

“It took scholarly history another generation to discard white supremacist, anti-African habits of thoughts.”

I really enjoyed reading this and it somewhat reminds me of the story of Frederick Douglass, and his biography Frederick Douglass: The Narrative of an American Slave. Frederick talks about his struggle with the knowledge he has gained by reading, education, and so on. He even goes as far as to say that he envied other slaves for their ignorance about the human life. There must have been a great amount of cognitive dissonance in Douglas’ mind. On one hand he knew the truth through reasoning and education. On the other hand, the life he was living was no where near that truth. He said, in his own words (paraphrasing), that he must either be freed (escape) or die! Knowing what he knew, he could no longer remain a slave. And this is like us. People cannot be slaves if we have a higher perspective of life. We can free ourselves if we have enough will power and correct knowledge.

“Nearly forgotten is the fact that most of their pre-1800 counterparts also came to the Americas as unfree-indentured-laborers.”

The reason I included this as one of my “Memorable Quotations” is because I wanted to point out that even though many Africans were targeted as slaves, there were also many others in American who were not “black” who were also trapped in some form of slavery.

“As black American artists began to travel to African, they began to paint real Africans as individual, living subjects taken from life. Africans were no longer simply abstractions in the narrative of black American history.”

I loved the painting included in regards to this paragraph. John T. Biggers, the artist, took the time to visit African to paint the people of Africa. With these types of paintings and arts, African Americans moved closer to their African identity and further from the stigmatized caricatures attributed to them.

As we start to understand cultures and their values, and distance ourselves from ignorance and fear, we can begin to understand our past and culture and move closer to a better future in which we can seek to understand on another without preconceived judgments.

(There’s about 700 words in here. I didn’t have a word count so I just counted the first line and the number of lines and multiplied those two numbers together.)

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