Introduction / History
African-Americans are a racial and ethnic group originating from many different ethnic groups found primarily in West and Central Africa. Their origins in what would become the United States of America, began in 1619 with the landing of roughly 20 Africans who were brought to Jamestown, Virginia to work as indentured servants. Slavery was codified in the laws of the various colonies beginning in the later part of the 16th Century, and unfortunately was the primary reality for the overwhelming majority of African-Americans until 1865.
Legal importation of African slaves to the country occurred until 1807, and it has been postulated that roughly 500,000-700,000 Africans were brought to the country during that period. The legacy of slavery compounded with segregationist laws thereafter such as the infamous Jim Crow Laws throughout the Southern United States ensured that African-Americans were not only socially and politically disenfranchised, but economically as well. Nevertheless from the 1960's onward the African-American community has grown into one which, although still in some ways suffers from the legacy of slavery and segregation, demonstrates resilience and economic, political and social progress.
The culture of the African-American has enriched the world's culture vis-à-vis music and the arts (Jazz, gospel and soul music are examples.) African-American inventors have provided the world with an array of inventions which greatly impact the daily lives of many.
Where Are they Located?
African-Americans are a very urbanized people with roughly 90% living in cities throughout the United States, primarily within the South (roughly 55% live in the Southern States.) New York City has the greatest African-American population of any American city (2.5 million). Detroit statistically is proportionally the most African-American city in the country (80%-Afro-American.)
Besides the United States, the African-American population has a component of people who emigrated to the West African nation of Liberia during the 19th century-so there are quite a bit of African-American descended people there known as the Americo-Liberians.
What Are Their Lives Like?
African-American lives are varied and depend on such variables as region and social/economic class. Some parts of the country are known as African-American Meccas due to perceived African-American economic advancement in those areas. Such areas are places as Atlanta, Washington, DC and Charlotte. Outside of these and other African-American Meccas (and even within them) , African-Americans face issues of statistically higher levels of unemployment in comparison to other racial/ethnic groups, and issues relating to gentrification of previously heavily populated African-American areas and economics in a sense "driving people away." The vast majority of African-Americans choose to live in heavily populated African-American areas, and issues relative to stagnant African-American (or any other sort of) business investment in such areas are also key issues faced within the community. African-Americans statistically face police brutality, housing and employment discrimination, and lack of access to quality schools at rates that are deplorable in relation to other population groups.
African-Americans traditionally believe in monogamy, respect for elders, hard-work and the concept of the extended family (quick to adopt someone as a cousin or brother or sister not just in name but in practice.) Many African-Americans subscribe to superstitions which speak to African origins, however overall African-Americans generally are very Bible-centered people. Contrary to what the media may portray, issues such as unwed parents are not looked favorably upon within the community. African-Americans are overwhelmingly staunch supporters of the Democratic Party and overwhelmingly support socially progressive issues, with some exceptions.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Religion has always been a key component within the African-American community, as they historically have been considered the most religious racial/ethnic group in the country. Although roughly 40% of African-American ancestors were thought to have been followers of Islam, today roughly 89% are Christian. Christian practices within the African-American community are as varied as the community itself. Some adherents syncretize aspects of traditional African-American religious belief systems such as Hoodoo (not to be confused with Voodoo) with Christianity and others follow the faith to the letter of the Bible.
What Are Their Needs?
African-Americans are in desperate need of a return to their traditional cultural core. Too much is being forced on the community as "their culture" when in fact it isn't and in essence it is killing the core of who they are. At the core they are a people who value humility, monogamy, respect for elders, and hard-work yet communities are filled with too many unwed mothers, loud and boastful men, disrespectful children and lazy youth and the problem seems to be getting worst.
The first thing to be done is to instill in youth a sense of ethnic pride and an acknowledgement of their unique culture. Some misinterpret this as an attempt to "clutch for straws" regarding things in Africa, when in actuality there is much that the community had kept as it developed and that needs to be recaptured. Once the community educates itself about its history, reinforcing the traditional culture and enriching it, many of the issues faced internally within the African-American community may subside.
|Profile Source: Michael Fitz|