Sprouted from slavery, the African American culture struggled to ground itself steadily into the American soils over the course of centuries. Imprisoned and transported to the New World, the African slaves suffered various physical afflictions, mental distress and social discrimination from their owners; their descendants confronted comparable predicaments from the society. The disparity in the treatment towards the African slaves forged their role as outliers of society, thus shaping a dual identity within the African American culture. As W. E. B. DuBois eloquently defines in The Souls of Black Folk, “[the African American] simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.” The double consciousness of a Black American represents the essence of their struggles to identify themselves, and tribulations of merging collective consciousness of an African and an American in an evocative and affirmative manner. Moreover, varied tensions that pervaded the African American experience can be recognized in historic documents and literary works of the black writers, poets and revolutionaries throughout the years.
First African Slaves in the New World
Contrary to the platitude that regarded Africa as a singular, denigrated nation, the African slaves originated from a multitude of countries with a rich history and extensive trade networks. The African American identity derived its source, after slaves were “lumped together as “Africans” against the backdrop of multivalent Western oppression.” African slaves endured poverty and brutal labor in the New World. By the end of the seve...
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...st in their own nation for the Black Americans. During the American Revolution, many slaves questioned the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. The three-fifth representation of the slaves as “other persons” aggravated many, and William Lloyd Garrison predicted the inevitable Civil War in Our Pro-Slavery Constitution by stating “are these Anti-Slavery interpreters ready for a civil war, as the inevitable result of their construction of the Constitution?” The African Americans also sought education opportunities and enfranchisement rights. With the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, both the free and enslaved African Americans surmised that they would be considered equals to the rest of the nation’s population. “The challenge now was to produce a society more faithful to the language and intent of the Constitution.”
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