From Africans to African Americans


During the roman era, the Berber tribe was living in the Carthage Area – the modern-day Tunisia. To the Romans, that tribe’s name was the Afri. As a consequence, their territory was given the name of Africa Terra (Land of the Afri). And that’s how that immense continent came to be introduced to the western world as Africa.

Fast forward to the Spanish Florida in the 1560’s and the first English colonization of North America in Virginia in 1607. Twelve millions Africans were snatched from their land and dispersed all accross the Americas.

As the nation expanded west, so did the cultivation of cotton and the institution of slavery.  Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Africans faced a life on the frontier significantly different from their experiences back east.  From the thirteenth Amendment in 1865 to their struggles during Jim Crow era; from the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement sparked by Rosa Parks’ resistance in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama and led by leaders like Malcolm X and Dr. King; to the Civil Rights Act signed by President L.B. Johnson in July 1964, Africans have faced different  kind of troubles along with many appellations.

In 2000, for the first time in US history, the census form allowed Americans to check more than one racial box. In fact, more than twice that many did. Races in America, along with the general evolution of the country, are in a different place today.

The personal story of the current President is crystal clear. For example, his  African father and grand father were Subjects under the rule of the British empire. His American grand parents were active during WWII. That background, on a different level, is shared by many among the African American community today. Does that mean that race doesn’t matter any more? Have old American racial labels become less meaningful and less characteristic?

Both the Academy Award Winner Charlize Theron and the renowned spouse of the Massachussetts’ Senator John kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry, come to mind. Both are Americans who immigrated from Africa. That makes them African Americans by definition, but not blacks. By the Republican Alan Keyes’ standard, a true African American is not only African and American, but also descended from American slavery. He made that argument during the 2004 senate campaign talking about his Democratic opponent Barack Obama.

Throughout the American history, relationships between Blacks and Whites have always been tumultous. Libraries and Museum all across America bear witness of  that fact, to remain true to themselves. This has always not been easy. But so far, so good.

Since the first African arrived in America at Jamestown Colony up until now, it is of great worth to notice that it all started with ”Colored” and ”Negro”. Later came ”Black” and  then emerged Jesse Jackson’s ”African American” in the 1980’s.

Now, with the first African American President in the History of the United States in office, how about just sticking with it and drawing a line in the sand? It’s time to stand firm on this identity- the result of both African and American heritage. Now is the time to get back to the unfinished business of the betterment of the African American condition in America.



Categories: OPINION

1 reply

  1. I always applaud how African American persistently improve themselves.. They tried and are trying when they were (and are?) tramped and flattened to the ground……. the beauty of persistence is shown from that..

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