Blacks and the American Political System

Blacks and the American Political System

Blacks and the American Political System

Blacks and the American Political System


'A strong and well-informed set of reviews of efforts and achievements of African Americans and their political allies across the broadest spectrum of arenas of government.' -Rufus P. Browning, San Francisco State University


Rufus Browning

The United States constitutes one of the world's great historical experiments, testing again and again whether a society in which a system of intensely racialized slavery that endured for two centuries can become a democracy in which the previously enslaved race enjoys social and political equality. As our experience with it attests, this is surely one of the most difficult of all political and social projects.

Africans could be and often were free--that is, not slaves--in the North, where slavery was abolished altogether after the Revolutionary War. Still, a system of intimidation, segregation, and discrimination in every area of life held back the great mass of African Americans in conditions of economic, social, and political subordination.

In the South, legalized bondage of African Americans was overthrown by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the victory of the North in the Civil War. the post-Civil War amendments to the Constitution placed the transformation from slave to citizen in the law of the land.

Legal slavery was abolished; control of the institutions of society by whites--convinced of their superiority and determined to maintain their power--was not. the passionate moral sympathy that led some whites to campaign for abolition and to work with African Americans in the cause of justice was not sufficient to undo the rigidly racialized structures and beliefs of American society. Yet another story was being written even as discrimination and segregation continued in the North and a caste system was institutionalized in the South to preserve white domination. An African American middle class emerged--not large but . . .

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