Intro to Afro-American Studies
Everyone Has a Role to Play
Toward a Paradigm of Unity in Afro-American Studies
|LOGIC OF CHANGE||Social Cohesion||Traditional Africa||-||Slavery||-||Rural Life||-||Urban Life|
|Social Disruption||-||Slave Trade||-||Emancipation||-||Migrations||-|
|UNITS OF ANALYSIS||Ideology||A1||B1||C1||D1||E1||F1||G1|
people are oppressed and exploited in the United States. It is the
responsibility of all people of good will, white and Black, to speak out
against this. racist terror on the basis of knowledge and logic. Therefore,
the main thing Afro-American Studies is designed to provide is the knowledge
and logic needed to under- stand and defend Black people, and in this way
make a contribution to the entire society.
Studies, as a field, is a partisan activity, an enterprise in which the
objective is not merely to understand the world but also to help make it
better. For example, people study agriculture in order to increase food
production. This is a positive goal for all of society, and it is given
support from all aspects of society in recognition of this fact. People
study Afro-American Studies because the Black community must be healed if
the United States is to survive. In this sense ' Afro-American Studies is
not only for the Black community, but, more profoundly, Afro- American
Studies is for the entire United States.
this last chapter, we are raising two basic questions: What should you have,
learned by reading this text? and Where do you go next? Beginning to answer
these questions is the task of this chapter.
Afro-American experience is rooted in the everyday activities of a people
trying to survive. This consists of how Black people lead their lives under
brutal forms of oppression and how they produce resistance against the
racist domination they face. This is the fundamental dialectical rhythm of
history - the struggle to survive and the struggle to transform history.
key aspect of society is political economy because this is how a society
takes care of its needs (e.g., food, clothing, housing, -health care,
etc.). Also, it is this aspect that defines class conflict and class
struggle. In fact, given certain class relations, people usually focus on
survival. However, there comes a time when chances for survival can't be
improved unless there is a change in the class character of society. This
is the turning point - when people no longer focus on survival, but take
history into their own hands.
good example of this is a personal statement from a Black woman who joined
the Black liberation movement in Mississippi.
Mrs. Johnnie Mae Walker was a community organizer
for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
of the Afro-American experience is not reducible to class, though all of
it is conditioned by class. Race, nationality, and consciousness exist
independently, each with its own "substance and logic of
development." But, the main factor that influences more than any
other the nature of every other aspect of society is class. This is the
most controversial issue in all the social sciences and humanities. ,
history can be theoretically summed up as a dynamic process of historical
periodization. This consists of three periods of social cohesion (slavery,
rural life, urban life) and three periods of social disruption
(emancipation, migration, crisis). All aspects of the Afro-American
experience fall into this historical paradigm. With this paradigm it is
possible to make great progress in theoretical discourse and empirical
research. Without such a basis for intellectual unity, there would be
confusion and rampant individualism. The role of intellectuals is to make
the world easier to understand and therefore easier to change. This
requires unity, the opposite of intellectual
event, person, movement, organization, book, even concepts and language
itself must be understood in relationship to all other aspects of society
and in terms of historical context.
a paradigm of unity, and with this method, all knowledge of the Black
experience can be synthesized as part of a cumulative process. You must,
however, be warned against relying on this paradigm to replace research
for detailed information. Each aspect of society must be studied on its
own terms, because each thing is unique and has its own identity. But,
there is this larger pattern, and it is this pattern that. helps put all
of the historical detail into a coherent picture.
people in the, United States have been at times very optimistic, and at
other times very pessimistic about the future. Of course, this reflects a
rational response to the shifting winds of racism. Black people have been
quite human in an inhumane condition. At an earlier point in history
(generally before the 20th century), Africa was a reasonable goal in times
of trouble. If it got bad enough in the United States, then Black people
could always go back to Africa and try to make a life there. But this is
no longer possible since the system that oppresses Black people is
world-wide. Just as Black people used to think that getting out of the
South would put them closer to freedom, few now think that. The only place
to go is outer space, and with the current development of "star wars,
technology" that is actually not a real possibility either. There is
no utopia in which to find a refuge. In fact, the actual meaning of the
word, utopia is "nowhere," so in this sense there never has been
any place to go for ultimate happiness.
good life is not found, but is made by human beings. The future is
produced through collective human action. The critical issues are: Who
will do it? What is it? How will they do it? In each case, why will they
do it? And, of course, when will it be done? We have been concerned with
summing up the historical record and the contemporary conditions of life.
These questions about the future you will have to answer through how you
lead your life, and how you influence others to lead their lives.
text stops here, but you must go on. We will leave you with one last
thought from the Afro-American poet laureate Langston Hughes:
America be America again.
it be the dream it used to be.
let my land be a land where Liberty
never been equality for me,
who are you that mumbles in the dark?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
am the young man, full of strength and hope,
am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
let America be America again -
call me any ugly name you choose -
the people, must redeem