In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson launched the annual February celebration of “Negro History Week,” the precursor to African American History Month.
Woodson’s mission was to dispel the myths being taught to African American students that they had no history before the arrival of European slave traders in Africa. In addition, racial slavery in America was an archaic practice that only benefited a small number of slave owners
The story of the African American odyssey in the United States is so voluminous that it would be impossible to cover in one 500-word commentary. Therefore, this short piece of writing is simply a scant narrative to introduce the interested reader to the history of people of African descent.
Most scientific scholars have confirmed that Africa is the cradle of civilization. Over 200,000 years ago the Hominids emerged into Africa’s space: To be more specific, the first human beings to walk upon the face of the earth were Africans.
In 1619, a year before the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock, John Rolfe recorded in his journal that 20 African slaves were ordered to the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, and sold to Gov. George Yearley in exchange for food and supplies — thus ushering in the era of racial slavery and white supremacy in what would later become the United States.
Over the next 250 years, racial slavery became the economic engine that set the wheels into motion for America’s first big business and capitalism. It’s estimated that more than 15 million African slaves were forcibly transplanted into the New World. And over 7 million more would perish on slaves ships that historians would correctly describe as floating concentration camps.
Although African slaves were stripped of their belongings, branded, chained and held below deck in the most inhumane conditions, they fought back against their tormentors, and in some cases, they were triumphed.
The wealth made by many participants in the slave trade is incalculable. The cotton that slaves grew and picked would clothe half the world and had a direct effect on global capitalism, trade, banking, insurance, shipping, etc.
The 13 colonies grew so rich and powerful that in 1776 the Second Continental Congress declared a Revolutionary War of Independence from Britain. Eighty-five years later, 11 southern states withdrew from the Union and provoked a bloody Civil War over slavery.
As a result, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves held in rebellious states. This momentous decree paved the way for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude... shall exist within the United States.” After 246 brutal years of slavery, the 13th Amendment ended the long night of captivity for millions of African American slaves.
A huge thank you to Dr. Woodson for pointing out to me that the mis- education of young African Americans must be challenged every day and the true story of African Americans’ journey from “Slavery to Freedom” must be taught to all generations — especially young African Americans.