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Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America, Volume I: African Roots through the Civil War / Edition 1

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Overview

Hard Road to Freedom tells the story of African America from its African roots to the political and social upheavals at the end of the twentieth century. It interweaves the experiences of individual black Americans with an analysis of the nation's pursuit of its fundamental principles, of freedom, and civil rights. The book begins with African cultures and the African people who withstood the horrors of the slave trade and slavery to help shape a new multiracial society in North America. The American Revolution brought freedom to some, but most remained in the grip of slavery. African Americans and their allies continually raised the cry for freedom, building determined black communities and dedicated antislavery organizations that contributed to the abolition of slavery. The precarious freedom after the Civil War brought new opportunities, but also new dangers and the limitations of Jim Crow. The wars and the depression in the early twentieth century found black Americans forging new alliances, creating a cultural renaissance, and fighting for democracy and freedom abroad. At home, they struggled against the denials of freedom and citizenship that still barred their full participation and that tarnished America's standing in the eyes of the international community. Throughout the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s and the political and cultural backlash that followed, African Americans continued to raise their voices in often eloquent and always insistent appeals that the nation live up to the promise of its principles. This book tells of America's unsteady advance along the road to freedom, the triumphs and hope, as well as the failures and despair, from the vantage point of the African Americans who resolutely played a critical role in that story.

About the Authors:
James Oliver Horton, the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at the George Washington University, directs the Africa American Communities Project at the Smithsonian Institution.

Lois E. Horton is professor of sociology and American studies at George Mason University.

They are coauthors of several books, including In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 and Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
An extraordinary contribution to the literature on the African American experience. The Hortons most assuredly will be compared to such influential writers on the subject as John Hope Franklin and C. Eric Lincoln. This academic yet readable work highlights the contributions and struggles of black people in the U.S. from their arrival from Africa to the new social order of the multicultural twenty-first century. . . . The book ends optimistically: 'blacks will continue the struggle along the hard rod to freedom, justice, and equality,' a point that the Hortons have proved with their careful discussion, telling illustrations, and exhaustive research.
Kirkus
[The authors] describe such familiar events as Nat Turner's revolt, the Underground Railroad, and the March on Selma, as well as familiar personalities like Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hamer. But they also include some less familiar facts: in the 18th century New York City was the largest urban slaveholding center after Charleston; by 1810 almost 58 percent of the nation's free blacks lived in the southern states; and the Depression, which reduced white incomes by as much as 50 percent, devastated already-scant black incomes by 75 percent. . . . A useful and readable record of the African-American experience.
KLIATT
The Hortons present an up-to-date survey of African American history with its contributions to the growth and development of the U.S. an aspect of America's story that is often neglected, ignored, or downgraded. Their summary of the long and difficult passage of African Americans from slavery to freedom and the continuing struggle for civil rights moves from the beginnings of the slave trade in Africa and the growth of slavery in the Western hemisphere to the dashed hopes of freedom during the American Revolution. Then the growth of the cotton industry in the South, the struggles of freed blacks in the antislavery movements, and the Civil War receive serious consideration from the African American perspective. The new-won emancipation is tested through Reconstruction, westward expansion, and the Jim Crow era. The Hortons detail the effects of Populism and the growth of labor unions with the denial of full economic and political participation by people of color. Active military service during wartime did not afford improved social or economic conditions for most returning black soldiers, as indicated in the chapters covering the first half of the 20th century. These years saw the mass migration of rural blacks to the northern urban centers. The tremendous cultural contributions of African Americans, sparked especially by the Harlem Renaissance, helped move the accomplishments of black Americans in literature, music, and the other arts into the wider public arena. In the postwar civil rights era the Hortons focus on the major initiatives and many key leaders that shaped the movement. Even as African Americans made numerous economic and political gains in the sixties and seventies, theauthors point out the backlash of the eighties and the struggle to maintain achievements right down to the closing days of the Clinton administration. The Hortons have set out to tell the "story of black people in America as an expression of one of the nation's fundamental principles: the pursuit of freedom." (p.4) Each chapter opens with a timeline and includes a representative figure from the period who exemplifies the spirit of the era. Excerpts from letters, speeches, and pictorial works add depth to the panorama of how African Americans and their struggles for freedom are an integral part of the American story. Recommended to update materials in all social studies programs in high schools and colleges. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Rutgers Univ. Press, 406p, illus, notes, index, 24cm, 00-025568, $22.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Mary T. Gerrity; Retired Libn. Upper Marlboro, MD, May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
Booknews
James (American studies and history, George Washington U.) and Lois (sociology and American studies, George Mason U.) trace the story of African America from its African roots to the political and social upheavals at the end of the 20th century, interweaving experiences of individual black Americans with analysis of the nation's pursuit of freedom and civil rights. As in their 1997 , they emphasize the contributions of African Americans to American culture as an integrated whole. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Hard Road to Freedom: The Story of African America, Vol. 1: From African Roots through the Civil War by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton

Copyright information: http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/press_copyright_and_disclaimer/default.html
Olaudah, whose name meant "the fortunate one," was born in 1745 to an elder among the Ibo (also called Igbo) people living in Benin, the eastern area of present-day Nigeria, in West Africa. Olaudah Equiano was his full name, although later in his life he would also be called Gustavus Vassa. His first few years were fortunate indeed. Indulged as his mother's favorite, he was the youngest son in a large family of comfortable means in a warm, productive land, "almost a nation of dancers, musicians, and poets."1 Trade with neighboring settlements linked Equiano's people to a far-flung commercial network, but most daily contacts were local, and most disputes were decided by the village elders. Living more than a hundred miles from the coast, the young boy had no contact with European traders and knew nothing of their society. Through local oral histories, however, Equiano probably had heard stories of his own people, the Kingdom of Benin, and the ancient empires and great civilizations to which it was tied. Beginning in ancient times, African storytellers memorized proverbs and tales from their people's history and could recite them to educate and entertain the villagers. As the archivists of their people, these talented and specially trained men were often trusted government advisers respected for their skill.
Equiano lived in a small corner of a vast continent. Second only to Asia in size, Africahas a land area of 11,700,000 square miles, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope, almost six times the size of Europe. Its geographical characteristics vary from the dry Sahara Desert in the north, an area the size of the United States, or the Kalahari Desert in the south to the grasslands of the Sudan to some of the most beautiful tropical rain forests in the world, situated in the central regions of the continent. It is a land infi- nitely diverse in climate, terrain, wildlife, and human culture. Between 6000 and 2500 B.C.E., a desert gradually emerged in Africa where once a green belt had existed. Equiano knew that his homeland was but a small corner of this vast expanse; that his nation and its people were rooted in an ancient civilization, indirectly descended from those who migrated south from the fertile Sahara as that region became too dry to sustain agriculture.
Long before, in the fourteenth century B.C.E., the Egyptians had retaken much of northern Africa from the darker skinned peoples of Kush, who retreated southward. Archaeological records reveal that the people of Kush established a strong kingdom based on agriculture, commerce, and iron manufacturing. They built urban centers and massive stone structures and dominated the trade routes to the Red Sea and the ivory markets of northern Africa for many centuries. In the third century C.E. their power was challenged by another emerging nation, occupying the region of present-day Ethiopia centered in the commercial city of Axum. Finally, around 350 C.E., the commercial conflict between these two nations became open warfare that ultimately destroyed Kush, scattering its people among other national groups to the east and to the west, toward the Atlantic coast.2
The contentions creating critical changes in northeastern Africa during this period included religious conflicts. Christianity was taking root in Egypt and spreading to the south and west, challenging traditional religions in those regions. After Rome became Catholic, most African Christians broke away from the Roman Church and formed the Coptic Church. ("Coptic" comes from a Greek word meaning "Egyptian church.") Over many centuries, as it spread, Christianity faced stiff competition from the many traditional local religions and from Islam, which was particularly influential in the region of the Sudan. In regions where Islam was accepted, oral historians added the Koran to their other recitations; in Christian areas they incorporated the Bible.
In the fourth and fifth centuries, a powerful trading nation arose to the southwest of Egypt. It took the name "Ghana" from the title given to its ruler, and by the eighth century it dominated West Africa. It controlled the trade routes across the Sahara that connected Africa with Mediterranean Europe, its people acting as middlemen between the people of West Africa and the Arabs of the north, and imposing tariffs on salt, gold, rubber, ivory, brass, and the small numbers of slaves that flowed north from the grasslands of central Africa. The tariff collected on this trade increased Ghana's wealth, and the wealth made it militarily strong. By the eleventh century Ghana's rulers commanded an army estimated at two hundred thousand warriors. From the north Ghana received the influence of Muslim merchants, Arabic as a written language, and the Islamic faith. The Muslim influence was apparent in its capital city of Kumbi-Saleh, which had not only a national palace and other opulent state buildings but also a Muslim quarter with twelve mosques and guest accommodations for Muslim visitors; Kumbi-Saleh was a center for education as well.
Ghana's wealth was enhanced still further by the gold brought from the mines of the Senegal River region and by the craftsmanship of its ironworkers, who were skilled at making weapons for warfare. This empire too was constantly challenged by its neighbors, who sought to acquire its wealth. Muslim warlords chipped away at the territory and trade that were the source of Ghana's power, and in 1076 they captured the capital, executing all who refused to convert to Islam. As the result of military losses and successive droughts, Ghana finally ceased dominating its region in the late twelfth century.
The successor state to Ghana was the Kingdom of Mali, which became extraordinarily wealthy and powerful during the thirteenth century. Travelers from the Middle East and southern Europe came in caravans to trade in Gao, Kangaba, Jenne, and other commercial cities of the empire. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries scholars came to Timbuktu to study Koranic theology, diplomacy, and law at the University of Sankore. The city and its university became a major center of Islamic learning, offering special education in geography and mathematics. European visitors were impressed with the grandeur of Mali and the grace and adroitness of its rulers. Under Mansa Kango Musa, a devout Muslim who made regular pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca, Mali reached the zenith of its power between 1312 and 1332. With these pilgrimages Mansa Musa made a mighty impression on rival states. In 1324 five hundred slaves wielding heavy golden staffs heralded his arrival at the gates of Mecca. His camel caravan, escorted by many thousands of his servants, carried thirty thousand pounds of gold.3 In terms of wealth, governmental organization, and military power, fourteenth-century Mali dominated its region and rivaled any nation in Europe. Centuries later British historian E. W. Bovill wrote that Mansa Musa ruled over a nation as "remarkable for its size as for its wealth, and which provided a striking example of the capacity of the Negro for political organization." J. C. DeGraft-Johnson believed that Mansa Musa "came nearest to building a united West Africa." "Whether you lived in the Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, Togoland, Dahomey, or Nigeria," DeGraft-Johnson asserted, "you could not help but feel the power and strength of the Mali Empire, the empire which sought to fuse all of West Africa into one whole." Thus Mali and its glory were directly connected to Benin's history. Through his ancestors Equiano was linked to all West Africans who were dominated by, and shared in, the ancient kingdom's power.4
In the late fifteenth century Mali's power waned, and Songhay (Songhai), a nation in the western Sudan that had been converted to Islam in the beginning of the eleventh century, rose to power. Songhay, with its capital city of Gao on the banks of the Niger River, became a mighty trading nation. Under its control Timbuktu and Jenne flourished, their markets and schools drawing an ever-increasing economic and intellectual traffic from North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and southern Europe, especially Spain and Portugal. At the height of Songhay's power Timbuktu alone had 180 schools, and white and black scholars at the University of Sankore studied grammar, literature, geography, science, law, surgery, and diplomacy. African scholars from Songhay carried their learning to the educational centers of southern Europe. Its government was a complex structure, comprising elected and appointed offi- cials. Its military was a professional corps distributed throughout the provinces of the nation under the command of provincial governors. Its economy revolved around trade, agriculture, and herding, and its economic success attracted the attention of rival states in North Africa.5 In 1591 the sultan of Morocco dispatched troops, many of whom were Spanish mercenaries, to attack Songhay. The resulting war was a costly one for both sides. Despite their superior weaponry, which included firearms previously unknown in the region, twenty thousand Moroccan troops fell. However, the warfare weakened Songhay's ability to withstand internal conflicts and pressures from neighboring states, and the empire disintegrated by the early seventeenth century.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps vii
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Chapter 1 Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade 6
Chapter 2 The Evolution of Slavery in British North America 26
Chapter 3 Slavery and Freedom in the Age of Revolution 52
Chapter 4 The Early Republic and the Rise of the Cotton Kingdom 76
Chapter 5 Slavery and the Slave Community 104
Chapter 6 Free People of Color and the Fight against Slavery 126
Chapter 7 From Militancy to Civil War 150
Chapter 8 From Reconstruction to Jim Crow 176
Chapter 9 Populism, Industrial Unions, and the Politics of Race 200
Chapter 10 The Harlem Renaissance between the Wars 226
Chapter 11 Depression and War 248
Chapter 12 The Postwar Civil Rights Movement 268
Chapter 13 From Civil Rights to Black Power 294
Chapter 14 Conservatism and Race in Multicultural America 322
Chapter 15 Race-ing to the Millennium 340
Notes 357
Index 389
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