In All Our Glory: African American History
We celebrate African American History to learn its lessons, honor its achievements, and emulate its spirit. The history of African Americans is dominated by their struggle to free themselves from the oppressive, exploitative, and de-humanizing practice of American Slavery and to create the conditions for African Americans to fully realize their humanity.
History shows that the struggle of blacks to free themselves from racism and poverty has made America a better nation as Dr. Martin Luther King suggested – “And let us move on, in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.” Perhaps Ralph Ellison, author of the American classic, Invisible Man, best summed-up the presence and contribution of blacks to American Civilization in his essay What America Would Be Like Without Blacks.
Materially, psychologically and culturally, part of the nation’s heritage is [African] American, and whatever it becomes will be shaped in part by the [African American’s] presence…Which is fortunate, for today it is the black American who puts pressure upon the nation to live up to its ideals. It is he who gives creative tension to our struggle for justice… It is he who insists that we purify the American language by demanding that there be a closer correlation between the meaning of words and the reality, between ideal and conduct, between assertion and our actions.
Thus, the presence of blacks in American helped to shape America and give it something unique and move the nation toward a “more perfect union.” America, Ellison asserts, could not survive being deprived of the presence of blacks, because, “by the irony implicit in the dynamics of American democracy, they symbolize both its most stringent testing and the possibility of its greatest human freedom.”
Unquestionably, as Ellison and so many before him- Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, and everyday black people have come to the same conclusion: the freedom struggle of African Americans has made America better by holding it accountable to its sacred scripture- the Declaration of Independence- “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness;” and reiterated at Gettysburg by Lincoln, “four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Hence, through the struggle of African Americans to free themselves, culminating in the United States Supreme Court 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka landmark decision, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act- is one of the major and enduring contributions of African Americans to America. What is often forgotten is that expanding of full citizenship was a benefit to all Americans, not just African Americans. This alone is worthy of recognizing and honoring. yet, there is more and we will explore and present the glorious history of African Americans, mindful of Malcolm X’s observation: “Of all our studies, history is best prepared to reward our research.”
And, again to bring forth that literary giant Ralph Ellison:
Without the presence of the [African] American style, our jokes, tall tales, even our sports would be lacking in the sudden turns, shocks and swift change of pace (all-jazz shaped) that serve to remind us that the world is ever unexplored, and that while a complete mastery of life is mere illusion, the real secret of the game is to make life swing. It is the ability to articulate this tragic-comic attitude toward life that explains much of the mysterious power and attractiveness of that quality of the [African] American style known as “soul.”
-Celebrate African American History