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Places and forms of power, african american recognition

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NOTION : PLACES AND FORMS OF POWER

THEME : AFRICAN AMERICAN RECOGNITION

Introduction:

I’m going to talk about the places and forms of power. To begin with, I would like to give a definition of this following notion: « Power » is the ability to control others, events, or resources; the ability to make things happen despite obstacles, resistance, or opposition. This of course leads to conflict between those who have power and those who don’t. It can be a person, a group, or a nation having great influence over people. Some places may be representative of a form of power.                                                              To illustrate this notion, I’ll talk about the achievement of recognition of AA because they fought a lot for recognition since slavery was abolished more than one century ago.  

Problem : How have African American (AA) achieved recognition ?

We will first see how the black identity was forged, then how some artists and artistic movement are committed to the black’ cause but we will see nevertheless that the fight continues.

I/ Forging an identity

First of all, in the 19th century, two societies are cohabiting in America : on the one hand the Whites, and on the other hand the Blacks. Even if the American Constitution says that "All men are created equal" and that slavery was abolished in 1863, discrimination remained legal for a hundred years. « The Jim Crow laws » appear in 1876 and legalised racial segregation in public places.

The contradiction here is that the former slaves are supposed to be free thanks to the « Declaration of Independance » writen in 1776 but the states enacted a series of restrictive laws known as the « black codes » to restrict freed blacks' activity and ensure their availability as a labor force now that slavery had been abolished. What was called slavery in the past is now legalized racism. For example, according to the « Black codes Mississippi » published in 1865, an AA can be send to jail for life if he marries a white person.

Moreover, the black identity was forged thanks to the Civils Rights Movement. It’s the mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States that came to national prominence during the mid-1950s.  The term "civil rights movement" refers primarily to the struggles fought between 1945 and 1970 to abolish racial segregation. Indeed, it’s a non-violent movement whose goal is to achieve equal political rights for every American citizen.

 

II/ Engaged artists

Despite the presence of legal texts, the blacks’ segregation is still present. That's why some artists and artistic movement are committed to the cause of black people.

Firstly, we think of Harriet Beecher Stowe. She’s considered as an abolitionist white writer thanks to her literary text Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852, at the time of slavery. Indeed, it’s a controversial book for the time and that’s why it’s a landmark in the history of the recognition of African American. Besides, George Orwell, an English author and journalist, referred to it as « the best bad book of the age ». Best = anti-slavery book and bad = she depicts black people as inferior to white people. Thus, years later, the novel is still recognised as having played a decisive role in the fight against slavery (end slavery = 1863).

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