I understand you have been wondering what it’s like to be an African-American living in America throughout history. I would like to provide some perspective on the issues that the African-American people have faced since arriving in the United States. Africans arrived on the shores of the U.S. along with the early European explorers from Spain and Portugal. Africans were brought to America to work for the Colonists and were sold into slavery by the captains of Dutch vessels. In 1619, numerous Africans were brought to Jamestown to work on the plantations and help with planting and harvesting crops. Tobacco farming was particularly profitable and very physically demanding. By the end of the 17th century, nearly 1.3 million Africans were brought to America. Between 1701 and 1810, as many as 6 million Africans brought to the new country. We were helpful in the development of the textile industry by working the cotton fields. When the cotton gin was invented in 1793, cotton could be handled faster requiring larger quantities to be harvested from the fields. Though we played a very important role in developing the economy of the United States, our role remained servant or slave to those of “higher” social status.
As America grew as a nation we began to fight for our rights and freedom. We were freed from slavery by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Though we had been freed, prejudice and discrimination kept us in a subordinate position until figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks stood up for the rights of all African-Americans and challenged their unfair treatment. Through the 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson, separate facilities were encouraged for Whites and Blacks (The Jackson Sun, 2003). By 1914, every state in the south had laws to keep Whites and Blacks segregated. During the years of 1890 – 1940, this came to be known as the Jim Crow era in the South. In the early 1800s states enacted laws banning free Blacks from entering. Ohio prohibited free Blacks in 1804 from immigrating and Illinois did likewise in 1813 (George Washington University, 1999).
In 1964, The Brown vs. Board of Education case in Topeka, Kansas saw the courts rule that “separate but equal” facilities were unconstitutional. This ruling made it illegal to treat someone different just because of race. The U.S. Congress ruled to outlaw all forms of discrimination. All people would have equal rights under this new act. This act prohibits discrimination in public sectors. No longer would we have to sit in separate areas on buses, in restaurants, have separate bathroom and water fountains, etc. The EEOC or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established on July 2, 1965. The EEOC handled complaints about unfair hiring practices in companies with 25 or more employees. In 1972, an amendment was put in place to lower that number to 15 or more employees. Pizza Hut was drawn into the national spotlight for refusing to deliver 40 pizzas to a high school honors program in an all-Black neighborhood in Kansas City. This is known as redlining and is used to determine if a minority should be able to purchase a home in a community where they are not present. The embarrassing part for Pizza Hut came when it was