Dr. Quintard Taylor, Jr.
Scott and Dorothy Bullitt
Professor of American History
 
 
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African American History | African American History in the West (Now available at www.blackpast.org)  


History 322:
Timbuktu to Katrina
Manual - Introduction

Introduction | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6 | Chap. 7 | Chap. 8

THE MEANING OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY
In the following passage New York Sun columnist Frank Harris offers one reason for the study of African American history.

Years ago, when I was a college freshman and black studies was still alive and well on college campuses across America, I took a black history course that, as expected, drew a roomful of fellow blacks. But the sight of a white student among the bunch was unexpected.  When the professor introduced herself and confirmed the name of the course, he remained seated.  Why was a white guy taking a course in black history?  My feeling then was that black history was for black people.  I felt this way, first, because it was our history that had been so routinely skimmed over by the American educational system, and we were the ones who needed to learn about ourselves; second, because whites, when presented with the option of learning about black history, had opted against it.  But my curiosity about this white student evolved into respect by semester's end.  I respected him not simply because he was there, but because he took a sincere interest in bridging the gap in his knowledge about the history of people with whom he shared this nation.

In the fifteen years since that course, I have come to believe that more whites should have been in that room learning about black history; since then, I can say unequivocally that black history is not for blacks only, it is for whites as well.  Whites need to learn black history.  Whites need to see history through the mist of fire of other eyes... I don't think that there is any American white who can ever know an American black, completely, until he has.....walked back into the sunlight of the history that, for so long, has been left in the shadows of the American conscious.  In these changing times, when.....racial incidents are on the rise....it is important that white Americans know black Americans, and just as important for black Americans to know white Americans.

Our histories are intertwined by the blood of slavery and the spirit of freedom.  Slavery and freedom have been the central points of reference in America's history, with the common perception that the history of black Americans begins with slavery and the prevalent view that blacks contributed little to American or world civilization. This, of course, ignores the fact that rich civilizations flourished in Africa while Europe was still in its infancy; that there were black explorers, conquerors, inventors, mathematicians, doctors, scientists before, during, and after slavery, and that from blacks came America's first clock, in 1754 by astronomer Benjamin Banneker; the world's first blood plasma, from Dr. Charles Drew; the world's first successful heart surgery, performed by Daniel Hale Williams, a Chicago surgeon, and numerous other achievements.

Black Americans already know the accomplishments and achievements of white Americans.  It is in the fabric of the standard history of America, as seen through the eyes of white Americans.  This is not to suggest that the learning of black history by white Americans would bring a quick and decisive end to racism, and the race issue, in AmericaBut it is a critical pillar in the building of a bridge between the two Americas: a bridge of knowledge that spans the gulf of ignorance; a bridge of respect that spans the bay of disdain.


Source:  Los Angeles Times, February 19, 1990.

 
INTRODUCTION 

I have assembled in this booklet instructional aids which will help enhance your understanding of the lectures and readings for this course, 20th Century African American History, or which explain and clarify the organization and require­ments of the course.  These aids include vignettes which are usually statements by important historical figures or commentary by observers of critical events and episodes in the history of African American people in the United States, statistical tables and information sheets.

Also included are lists of weekly terms introduced and emphasized during the lectures or discussed in the assigned readings.  These terms reflect some critical event or development for a particular period of African American history or refer to a concept which will help you better understand the historical process.  Since I will randomly choose some of the terms for your midterm and final exams you should learn the definition and historical significance of each of them.  Those terms not specifically discussed in class will be explained in your textbooks or the manual so it is particularly important that you do all of the assigned reading.  All of the instructional materials are arranged in the approximate order in which they will be dis­cussed during the quarter.

One final note: you should view the materials in this manual not simply as additional information you will have to learn for the exams but as data that will help you better comprehend and assimilate the varied issues addressed in the lectures and textbook reading assignments.  If you have any questions about any of the information presented in this manual please contact me during my office hours which are listed on your course syllabus.