Cultural Portrayals of African Americans: Creating An Ethnic/Racial Identity

By Janis Faye Hutchinson | Go to book overview
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ingly, middle-class African Americans are beginning to question the values and objectives of assimilation and acculturation as never before ( Early 1993). Perhaps the viability of this pattern of entrepreneurship will reflect the viability of cultural autonomy among African Americans.

The segregated location of blacks in Louisville to the West End physically defines or outlines their community. According to Warren ( 1978:9), community is "that combination of social units and systems that perform the major social functions having locality relevance." Community is both geographic and psychologic. Geographically, it identifies a cluster of individuals, while psychologically it indicates shared interests, shared social characteristics, and social interaction. Frequency and intensity of interaction and segregation of association are the main ingredients determining community identity ( Hillery 1955; Hutchinson et al. 1996; Warren 1978). The history of Louisville and the state of Kentucky situated in the South, and the legacy of this history for race relations, influences black Louisvillians' sense of community and ethnic identity. There is a comaraderie and shared sense of identity in response to the negativism of white Louisvillians. This sense of racial identity is partially a reaction to the legacy of slavery and the negativism associated with race relations in the South.

The celebration of Kwanzaa, the voluntary study groups, and the proliferation of Afrocentric entrepreneurs are also responses to negative images of African Americans created by white Americans following the transportation of dark-skinned people to the New World. Knowing that such stereotypes are not representative of African Americans, black Louisvillians sought to develop their own racial identity by covering their "true past" and by economically capitalizing on this past. This is not a negative, but a positive development of racial identity among people inundated with negative images and stereotypes of themselves. In conclusion, the segregated location of blacks in Louisville and the development of Afrocentric celebrations, study groups, and entrepreneurs are producing a positive image of African Americans. It is allowing them to develop a racial identity devoid of the negative images and connotations of white America.


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Brown E. 1993. Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story. New York: Pantheon Books.

Carson C. 1981. In the Struggle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


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