From Slavery to the Black Lives Matter: African American History

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Table of Contents

Since the initial formation of the 13 colonies that led to the greater United States, race has played a consequential if not the most essential role in the acceptance or rejection of a man. Beginning with the slaughter and displacement of those native to the Americas and slowly transitioning to the enslavement of the African man and woman, this single sentiment has proven itself to stand to toll of time becoming more evident in recent years. Making its public debut with the killing of males by the common man and quickly transitioning to the act being committed by those who have sworn to uphold the law and protect its citizens, the issue of placing African Americans in a negative light has grown far too big to ignore. Although there are many opinions on the racial issues that are present, it is undeniable that they do exist. Making use of the hate you give the forthcoming analysis will provide a comprehensive summary on the perception of the African American male in the United States and how it correlates to the American jail system and societal development.

Furthermore, it will present how relying upon native colloquial phrases, imagery, and elements of symbolism Angie Thomas perfectly illustrates the societal perception of the African American male and the most probable outcome for their future albeit death or jail time.

Don’t test, them bullets might press. Why they wanna see me dead? I ain’t even grown yet. Every year it’s the same story making headlines in the news or waves on social media. African American male W was shot by officer X and not a soul knows why. Treyvon Martin shot and killed by George Zimmerman while on the way home from a local convenience store. His shooter Zimmerman, initially being charged with the murder was later aquited after claiming self-defense. He apparently was in fear of a 17 year old student who was in possession of nothing more than a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea. Jamarion Robinson, age 30.

Shot 76 times when he refused to open the door of his girlfriends home when officers knocked. They later proceeded to knock down the door and open fire. JaQuavion Slaton, a young man in his early 20’s shot 10 times in Fort Worth Texas and the root of much controversy. The officers responsible for the deed claim that he was armed and dangerous but no proof of such a claim has been provided. Three men, with three different lives that lived in three different parts of the country with no similarities other than their cause of death and the color of their skin. Each of said deaths a result of the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, to put it simply racial profiling as described by the American Civil Liberties Union or ACLU for short. Although there have been claims that we live in a so-called era past racial discrimination the issue of racial profiling is blatantly evident with the aforementioned cases only being the tip of the underlying iceberg.

Even though the act of racial profiling was has been outlawed in the United States the task is stilll performed on a daily. The music you listen to, the clothing you wear, the car you drive, and even the manner of your speech are all things used to create societies perception of who you are. These perceptions are oftentimes generalized to the masses making you no longer you but your ethnic group itself, with you embodying both the good and the bad in the eyes of others. It is this manner of thinking that paves the way for racial profiling to be enacted and in some ways accepeted by the masses leading to the lives of innocent African American men being taken. “He pats Khalil down. “Okay, smart mouth, let’s see what we find on you today”. Thomas provides a prime example. In spite of the lack of communication with Khalil the officer has already branded him as a criminal. He insinuates that Khalil is in possession of some sort of paraphernalia presumably a firearm or drugs and forces him out of the car after ignoring his request to know what he had been pulled over for.

Although khalil was speaking with a lack of respect for the authority held by the officer he never once hinted to the fact that he could possibly be dealing or using non-prescription drugs, going as far as to tell the officer that he would not find any such tools on him. Even in previous chapters when he mentions that he’s been “busy” to Starr, it is not said what busy means only mentioned that anyone who grows up in Garden Heights is aware of the phrases true meaning. So why would such a comment be made? Because Khalil drove a run down Impala with cracked seats while blasting Tupac and wearing a gold chain and rare Jordans. All things that are affiliated with society’s perception of gang bangers and drug dealers also known as “Black Folk” and because of his actions Khalil was guilty of a crime punishable by death without the need for a trial by jury. Driving While Black. The culmination of the transpiring events led to Khalil being shot by officer 115, as referred to by Starr. Firing multiple rounds into him when he leans into the car window to check on Starr and make sure she was not too frightened, he took his life.

African American males are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by law enforcement than their Caucasion counterparts, according to a study conducted by Frank Edwards of Rutgers University’s School of Criminal Justice, Hedwig Lee of Washington University in St Louis’s Department of Sociology and Michael Esposito of The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social research and Khalil has only added to that statistic.

The cognitive structures that encompass an individual’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about a specific ethnic group have a substantial impact on the American legal system as well and are primarily responsible for statistics such as the 37% of male prison inmates that just so happen to be black (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Thomas plays on this fact multiple times within her novel designing characters such as Khalil and scenes such as the Garden Heights house party, to fit the common perception of an African American male effortlessly. “I squeeze through sweaty bodies and follow Kenya, her curls bouncing past her shoulders. A haze lingers over the room, smelling like weed, and music rattles the floor…Between the headache from the loud-ass music and the nausea from the weed odor, I’ll be amazed if I cross the room without spilling my drink”.

From this readers can already predict what is to happen next as we’ve become all too familiar with the scene and have established the wild nature of the individuals attending this party. Weed being available for recreational use legally only once you have turned 21, causes one to assume that they have obtained this substance illegally along with their alcoholic beverages mentioned later on in the chapter. It is instances like these that allow for negative stereotypes about African Americans to prevail, with the fact that shortly after there was a shooting that took place only making matters worse.

The constant creation of new stereotypes with the consistent reaffirmation of predating ones makes for a dangerous game and because of that in relation to Caucasions and even other minorities African Americans have drawn the short end of the stick with 16.6% of males incarcerated in 2001 being of African decent (Bonzcar 2003) later increasing to 34% in 2014 (NAACP, 2014). This is a result of the nearly quintupled rate of incarceration that African Americans face in relation to caucasions where stereotyping is the divining factor. Starting as a thought, for example, “that black guy just held up a gas station” ideas are soon spread to others and turned into generalizations such as “all black men are criminals” and ultimately become stereotypes “black men are dangerous” and as generations are raised with these generalizations they become blinded by their own ignorance. These sentiments are not just reserved for adult black men though, nationwide African American children make up 32% of the children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children cases are judicially waived to criminal court. All while only making up 12.3% of the United States Population (News.Gallup). This leads to the issue of imbalance in incarceration, not only costing innocent men their freedom but the US government around 38,000 dollars per inmate per year (federal register.gov) and with an estimated 6.8 million current inmates (NAACP, 2014) there have been nearly 81 billion dollars spent a year causing the US’s pockets take a hit as well as her citizens through things such as increased taxes or a loss of government-sanctioned projects causing great unrest within various communities.

In recent times, citizens have begun to feel unsatisfied with their current positions within society. No longer are they sitting on the sidelines and watching as their futures or that of their loved ones are taken from them without the slightest sign of remorse and they are calling for change. “Pardon me, L-O-R-D, why’z it so hard out here for N_____s like me?” (Brent Faiyaz, Why’z it so hard). With this single lyric Faiyaz sums up the thoughts of the current African American community as a whole. No longer are we asked for our freedom papers but for the right to live a free life all the same. A feat seemingly impossible when one in three African American males will be incarcerated within their lifetime (NAACP,2015) and one in one-thousand can expect to lose their lives at the hands of a police officer. Even so it is no longer a one sided battle.

To combat statistics such as these we have now seen the creation of many pro-black/ pro-equality activist groups, one of the more notable organizations being Black Lives Matter which has gained acceptance from the masses as well as many political leaders such as Barack Obama. Formally founded on July 13th of 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to the aforementioned acquittal of George Zimmerman, members of the Black Lives Matter activist movement have advocated for the elimination of systematic racism (a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors) against African Americans. With previous activist groups such as the Freedom Riders, a collection of African American and Caucasion civil rights activist who participated in “Freedom Rides, ”paving the way Black Lives Matter has used their influence on black America as a stepping stool to push out their beliefs through peaceful and non-peaceful protest while fathering the production of other civil activist groups along the way.

Through hard work and perseverance over the last five years since they have appeared on the civil rights scene BLM has taken many steps towards their ultimate goal. With the Mothers of The Movement, mothers of black men shot and killed by police, receiving a national stage as they stood at the Democratic National Convention and shared stories of how their children were taken from them and gave support for Hillory Clinton and her candidacy, it is undeniable the power they are gaining over the political system. This fact was only reaffirmed by the debate that was sparked with former president Bill Clinton and Barack Obama over the now controversial 1994 crime bill that is often times blamed for the problem of mass incarceration of African Americans. They also made waves when they received tickets to the white house on multiple separate occasions. The more well known of the lot taking place in July of 2016 when a meeting was held between leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement officials which was said to have been very “solution oriented”.


Following this DeRay McKesson who attended the meetings was invited back to back to discuss building coalitions among black, Muslim, Asian, Latinx, and Jewish leaders and then president Obama gave his famous speach in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement, “[W]hen people say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.” quelling the anger of those who saw BLM as a make-shift black supremacist group. BLM is not alone though; In Chicago, the labor of groups such as BYP100 and Assata’s Daughters, among others, led Anita Alvarez who had inexplicably failed to charge police officers who shot at least 68 people to death to lose her re-election bid for Cook County prosecutor. And in Florida, groups like The Dream Defenders and others helped end Angela Corey’s reign as a state attorney. Corey remains infamous for failing to convict Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman while prosecuting Marissa Alexander, a Black woman who didn’t hurt anyone when firing a warning shot at her abusive ex-husband.


Cite this paper

From Slavery to the Black Lives Matter: African American History. (2021, Jan 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/from-slavery-to-the-black-lives-matter-african-american-history/



Is Black history American history?
Yes, Black history is American history as it is an integral part of the country's past, present, and future. Ignoring or marginalizing Black history erases the contributions, struggles, and achievements of Black Americans and undermines the pursuit of equality and justice for all.
What is the importance of Black history?
Black history is important because it is the history of the African diaspora. It is a history of struggle and triumph, of resistance and resilience.
What is the most important event in African American history?
The most important event in African American history is the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was a time when African Americans fought for their rights and equality.
Who are some important figures in Black history?
While Black History Month is synonymous with prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver and Barack Obama , there are countless other African Americans who've made a profound impact in history: self-
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