Black American Biographies: The Journey of Achievement
For Americans, the pursuit of happiness has long been bound up with striving for excellence and achievement. But, although the Declaration of Independence found the fundamental equality of all people (or at least of men) to be self-evident and the right to liberty inalienable, for African Americans the pursuit of not just achievement and excellence but of liberty and equality was long obstructed by barriers of “race” and class and by the social and economic framework of life in the United States. As this book details, the black experience in America has been marked by hardship unlike that experienced by any other ethnic group in the country. Within these pages, readers will meet or rediscover a host of African Americans who have overcome these barriers to make important contributions to American political, religious, social, economic, and cultural life. In doing so, these men and women not only improved the lot of African Americans but that of all Americans. Slavery is the scourge of American history, a source of national shame that dates from the arrival of the first African slaves in Jamestown colony in 1619. As this “peculiar institution” persisted into the 19th century, many African Americans fought for the emancipation of their people through methods varying from written protest to violent uprising. The most effective slave revolt in U.S. history was led by Nat Turner in 1831. Turner, the seven other slaves who were his initial followers, and those who joined them sustained their uprising for two days, killing his owners’ family as well as 60 other white people before being stopped by the Virginia militia. After six weeks in hiding, Turner was tried and hanged. His rebellion led to a tightening of restrictions placed on slaves in regard to education and their ability to hold meetings precisely because it had served notice that slaves were capable of and willing to organize, arm themselves, and put life and limb on the line in order to escape bondage.
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