Cultural Experiences of African Americans

Persecution and Prejudice of African Americans

Throughout history, Africans and African Americans have suffered horrible prejudice and mistreatment including slavery, isolation, persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. This section further illustrates the egregious acts against “Blacks” throughout both American and European History.

To persecute someone means to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of race or belief. For years African Americans have been persecuted by the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK is a secret white supremacist organization that is against African Americans,Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and labour unions.  Though The KKK also terrorize Jews and other non Christian cultures (basically anyone different from themselves), their primary focus was the African American society. Their hatred for the African American people were displayed lynching them, torturing them, burning crosses, burning African Americans on the cross, mutilating their bodies and displaying them publicly etc. The Persecution of African Americans led to the deaths of many people, mainly African Americans, and the birth of many black groups, leaders and speakers such as the Black Panthers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, etc.  Please proceed to the following website and view the African American Haulocaust slide show and then return here.

One of the images included in the African American Haulocaust slide show you just viewed was that of a 14 year old boy named Emmett Till. Below is his story.

Emmett Till

On August 24th, Emmett Till and a friend went into town to make a purchase from the market. Upon Leaving the store, Till either said,"Bye, baby" or he whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a young white woman. Till was not conscious of the magnitude of his actions. Four days later, Milam Bryant, Carolyn Bryantʼs Husband, and his half brother went to Tillʼs current home, and kidnapped him. Tillʼs disappearance was put into newspapers, and Bryant, and his half brother was arrested for Emmettʼs kidnapping. Three days later, Emmett Till's body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River. He was weighted down by seventy-five pounds of cotton gin fan that was tied around his neck with barbed wire. His face was so mutilated that his family could only identify him by the ring that he was wearing. His right eye was missing, his nose was broken, and there was a hole on the side of his head. His mother decided to have a open casket funeral, so that the world could see what had happened to her son, 50,000 people attended. Emmett Tillʼs murderers were placed in court with a jury of their friends and community (all of which were white). The defense was, It was not Emmett Tillʼs body drawn from the lake. Mose Wright, who lived with Emmett, and witnessed the event, testified that Milam and Bryant were the men that had taken Till at gunpoint. Milam and Bryant's attorney forewarned the jury about convicting the defendants: "Your ancestors will turn over in their grave, and I'm sure every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men." 67 minutes later, the jury found the defendants not guilty. The jury concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove that the body recovered from the river was Emmett Till.
Emmett Till in his casket
On January 24, 1956, Look magazine published the confession of Milam and Bryant, who had agreed to tell their story for $4,000. They confessed beating Till with a .45 in Milam's barn. They then put him back in the truck and took him to the Tallahatchie River, they had him undress and then shot him. They then tied a gin fan around his neck with wire in order to weigh the body down. Then they proceeded to burn Till's clothes and shoes. Milam and Bryant were never charged with the crime of murdering Till.

The murder of Emmett Till was a shocking example to the world of the danger, inequality, and prejudice that blacks faced then, and continue to face today.  Blacks have not only suffered prejudices and segregation in the United States but in Europe as well. From 1933 to 1945 “Blacks” in Nazi Germany and in German occupied territories suffered isolation, persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. During World War II, Africans were forced into Nazi concentration camps and were imprisoned without cause. Prisoners of war faced illegal incarceration and were tortured and murdered at the hands of the Nazis. The article, “Blacks During the Holocaust”, further discusses the segregation, prejudices and abuse Africans and African Americans suffered in Europe during the World Wars.  Below you will find the link to the article if you would like to read more on the subject.

We have learned of the atrocities and suffering inflicted on this group of people at the hands the Ku Klux Klan. However, it was not only extremist groups such as the KKK who have tortured, terrorized and abused African Americans. African Americans have often been the unwitting victims of medical experiments such as the Tuskeegee Experiments. The following is an article from theWashington Post that discusses the egregious acts against these people at the hands of medical professionals.  Below is a link to an article entitled "Unequal Treatment" that explains more about the medical experiments.

African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968)

The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring their right to vote in Southern states. Many of those who were active in the Civil Rights Movement prefer the term "Southern Freedom Movement" because the struggle was about more than just civil rights under law; it was also about freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality.  The following YouTube videos depict actual events in history surrounding the desegregation of southern schools during the civil rights era.  The first video is a news clip of Bull Connor, Birminghams Commissioner of Public Safety in 1962. Connorʼs extreme use of police dogs and fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators called national attention to the Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham was an international symbol of segregation and racism.
This second video is a news clip from 1957 of the Arkansas 9. The Arkansas 9 was the name given to nine African American children who were bused to an all white school as part of the desegregation of southern schools. The attempt to desegregate incited mass rioting, forcing the federal government to intervene.