Through the years marked of racial prejudice and discrimination in America are ones full of pain and sacrifice, they are also rich in history. The time period prior to the integration of the civil rights amendments was overall negative for African Americans, but that negativity withholds in itself an immense portion of black history. The method of dispersal of blacks in America was unnatural, occuring essentially only due to the Atlantic slave trade.
Because of this factor, history for African Americans is a lot more lengthy than that of blacks in other countries. The lack of black presence in other places, such as Russia is directly tied to the fact that this country did not actively take part in the slave trade. Their absence to this event can seem anti-racist and pro-black, but in actuality the only reason the Soviets were not extremely included in this inhumane trade of persons is because participation in this would counteract the Marxist ideology that they strove to present as a country.
African History in America
The history of blacks in America is fairly frequently discussed and a lot easier to uncover because of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Around 1619 was when the first few blacks were brought over to America, specifically Virginia. Simply put, there was a great demand for labor in the Americas and African American slavery was used to satisfy it. There were an increasingly amount of slave posts or “slave factories” along the Americas where slaves could easily be traded, through a lot of slaves were obtained by European slave raids and force.
In the beginning, feelings of racial superiority weren’t inherent, as the white traders primarily kept a strictly business attitude when trading, negotiating prices with the African ruler. However, as time progressed, racial attitudes did as well, even the prices of slaves fluctuating from 20 sterling in the 1600s, to about 5 in the 1800s. By the abolition of slavery in 1865, over 10 million Africans had been traded and brought to North America. Though slavery itself was outlawed at this time, this was not the end of racial discrimination, nor the historical timeline for blacks in America.
The actual abolition of slavery and the period in America following was a very important time because this was the Reconstruction Period, where the government was attempting to rebuild and reunify the states. During this time, blacks did gain a bit of advantage, some even being able to serve political positions of power such as legislators within their states, however, whites still made the efforts to keep them “under control”. The Black Codes were prominent at this time, and they were essentially a set of laws in place to keep African Americans from obtaining true freedom.
These laws limited Blacks from basic rights including testimony in court and being able to acquire certain land. As a result of this, white supremacy groups formed, attacking blacks, and getting away with harming them because they weren’t able to file cases against them in court. The Freedmen’s Bureau was enacted in light of this, as a way to help poor blacks get resettled in America. Even though policies like this were created, the disfranchisement of blacks and attempts at this were still very prominent. Many hardships were manifested, discouraging African Americans to take a role in politics and even limiting their ability to vote altogether.
The next big burst of power for blacks came with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1900s, were African Americans began to express themselves more creatively, as they thought that art could be a means of social change. The plight for complete and utter equality between races in America some might say is ongoing, even today as blacks make up 14% of the American population (42 million). The influence of African Americans, however is undeniable, many black people taking high leadership roles and ones of great impact in today’s society.
African History in Russia
The Russian timeline with blacks starts much more later and is a lot more subdued. Even with the abundance of today’s technology, it is increasingly hard to uncover specifically when the first Africans traveled to Russia, as it wasn’t that frequent. However, those who did travel to Russia during this time period could easily note differences between there and America. While the attitudes Europeans had towards blacks were not completely gone in Russia, it was a lot easier for a black person to live without the constant racial discrimination following them than it was in America.
One writer, Nancy Prince discusses her travel to Russia in 1824 in her nonfiction novel, “A Black Woman’s Odyssey through Russia and Jamaica”, and within it, calls the Soviet society one that was more accepting than that of America. By the 19th century, alot more black people from America began to travel to Russia in search of new opportunities in a place that was more welcoming of black culture. However, most of the Africans who traveled to Russia did so by choice, in comparison to the 10 million who were transported to America due to the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Today’s Black population in Russia is a small 40,000, less than one percent of Russia’s total population. Russia as a Communist Society As previously mentioned, the hesitation for Russian counterparts to become involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade can seem as a pro-black stance, however it mostly can be chalked up to the fact that America’s form of racism directly goes against the concepts in the Marxist ideology that this society strived to proclaim. The slave trade was at its height in the late eighteenth century, which was also when Russia became mostly known as a communist society.
The Marxist typically believes that there should be no class structure economically or socially, and that the government should be in control of resources and the production of such. By this logic, Russia’s participation in slavery in this sense would be a complete clash of interest. However, it is still important to note that while American slavery was occuring, Russia did have its own form intact as well.
Russian serfdom became officially enacted around 1649. Parallel to that in America, this system was not specifically racially based, but they did use a similar concept to justify enslavement of these people, creating speculative differences such as saying that the peasants bones were different than that of the free men. Holistically, Russian serfs were treated better with more rights than black slaves were at first, and serfdom was abolished around the same time American slavery was.
In conclusion, Russia’s absence from the Atlantic Slave Trade is of utmost importance, and accounts for the lack of black history in Russia, and the lack of black Russians present today. Though the time period of blacks being transported to America was one of negativity, it’s a very important piece of African American history because without this aspect, the large dispora of blacks to America most likely would not have occured. Though Russia did experience a lot of connection and impact from Western European societies, it is interesting to note that the attitudes of racial superiority to black people did not directly transfer to Russia, even though they had their own form of slavery present at the same exact time.
And even though Russia was generally more accepting towards black people, the African population in Russia continues to be very dwindling. This clearly displays just how important and influential the dispersal of a people group is towards its racial relations and future of that people group. However, if it wasn’t for the Marxist ideology present in Russia at the time, they too probably would have participated in the Atlantic Slave Trade, making the population of the black community in Russia and black history overall completely different.