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The African American Journey

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The African American Journey

The past advancements of African Americans have been one of great endeavors, suffering and victories. The descendants of the African Americans battled to defeat the obstacles that were placed before them. This journey was not an easy one. While the African Americans had issues, they overcame them and their journey has taken them from the slave house to the white house and has made substantial advancements from 1865 to now.

The time period from 1865-1876 for the African American had its difficulties. A turbulent factor that caused anxiety among the African Americans was the black codes. Each state authorized a number of laws, frequently replicating the old slave code that pertained only to the African Americans. (Davidson, DeLay, Heyrman, Lytle, Stoff, 2008 pg. 474)

Black codes were legislated by the ex-Confederate states after the Civil War to confine the freed slaves in order to maintain a low-cost agriculture labor and preserve a white hierarchy. The black codes did not begin with the down fall of the Confederacy. Before the Civil War, southern states passed Slave Codes to control the foundation of slavery. Additionally, northern non-slave states passed laws to limit black political power. As an example, Ohio, in 1804, passed laws forbidding free blacks immigrating into the state. In 1813, Illinois passed a law that banned free blacks from entering the state. Black codes obtained after the Civil War acquired elements that existed before the war and from the laws of the northern states that were used to control free blacks. (Black Codes 1865-66, 1999)

The black codes were basically annulled when the Radical Republican Reconstruction began in 1866-67. Several months later Congress presented to the states the Fourteenth Amendment, that expresses no state, should deny anyone life, liberty or property. (Andrew Johnson, n.d.) The legality of the black codes was brief; they are important enough to serve as antecedents to the Jim Crow laws among the whites and blacks. An example, Arkansas passed a law forbidding black children to go to school with children. Texas passed a law that required railroad companies to have a passenger car for the black passengers. (Black Codes 1865-66, 1999)

First, all black codes outlined the meaning of "person of color." Virginia determined that if an individual had one-fourth Negro blood that person was deemed a person of color. Georgia had a one-eighth. Tennessee clearly stated if anyone had any Negro blood at all than that person will be seen as a person of color. Second, the blacks could not vote, hold office or serve on juries. Third, they could not serve in state militias. Fourth, vagrancy laws went into effect. This law basically implied if an individual was unemployed or not owning property could be arrested as a vagrant. This law was not aimed at the blacks, but because most blacks lived at the poverty level they were arrested for vagrancy. (Racial Reconstruction, 1995) Once convicted of vagrancy, the person was hired out to private individuals or required to work public projects; they did not get paid for their labor. Fifth, labor contracts were controlled between whites and blacks. The blacks had the freedom to choose their jobs, but had to sign a contract that forced them to remain with that employer for one year. This prevented the blacks to accept a better paying job yet, gave the landowners cheap labor. Sixth, interracial marriages between whites and blacks were prohibited. (Black Codes 1865-66, 1999)

Emancipation presented religious challenges for northern and southern African Americans. The Civil War gave freedom to the enslaved, but the matter of business to organize religious communities was not the only thing that needed attention; a need to create a new life, to find lost family members to find employment and to comprehend the significance to live as citizens in the United States instead of being seen as property. (Maffly-Kipp, Laura, 2001)

The year of 1877 ushered in the Jim Crow racial system that existed mainly in the South.

African Americans were seen as second class citizens. Basically, African Americans must be kept at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. There were Jim Crow etiquette rules that had to followed. A small example of the etiquette rules are: Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks and the White motorist had the right of way at all intersections. Stetson Kennedy wrote the Jim Crow Guide, which offered simple rules for the Blacks to follow while talking to a White person. Again, small examples of these rules are: never curse at a White person and never make a comment about how a White female looks. The Jim Crow was humiliating to the Blacks and they resisted, often facing death for it. (Pilgrim, D., 2000)

In the years from 1877-1920 life for the African Americans began to make some

improvements. African Americans were attending white churches. Now free the African Americans began to organize their own place of worship with black preachers. Nearly half of the black members of the Methodist Church South left and in 1870 the Negro Baptist Church increased its membership. (Davidson, et al, 2008, pg. 483)

Within ten years the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) churches absorbed the southern membership by the thousands surpassing any other organization. In 1870, they were promptly joined by a new southern church, the Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church that was founded by the original black leaders. Then in 1895, the black Baptists created the National Baptist Convention, an organization that is presently the largest black religious organization in the United States. (The Black Church, 2011)

In 1906, the nearly organized holiness movement was the beginning of Pentecostalism that would become an asset in the future. In that year, during a holiness revival at a Los Angeles church, those that attended said they were given the gifts from the spirit (speaking in tongue). This became a characteristic feature of Pentecostal worship. The holiness Pentecostalism began as multiracial that stressed equality before Christ, by World War I the racial lines had formed and the black Pentecostal church was born after being excluded by the whites. Towards the end of the twentieth century, black Pentecostal churches were led by the powerful Church of God in

Christ that became an important diversity of black religious variety in the United States. (Maffly-

Kipp, Laurie, 2004) Religion gave hope, their own identity.

Through the years of 1921-1945 became a search for a better life. The twentieth century was an important

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