The Fruits of Integration: Black Middle-Class Ideology and Culture, 1960-1990

The Fruits of Integration: Black Middle-Class Ideology and Culture, 1960-1990

The Fruits of Integration: Black Middle-Class Ideology and Culture, 1960-1990

The Fruits of Integration: Black Middle-Class Ideology and Culture, 1960-1990

Excerpt

In 1988, shortly after the presidential election of George Bush, the Reverend Jesse Jackson met with a group of black leaders and heads of various social agencies to set an agenda for Afro America for the coming century. When the meeting was over, the one thing that had received the most attention in the media (and this attention was certainly not discouraged by the conference participants) was the pronouncement that from now on black people would be termed African Americans. For those who had been involved in the civil rights--black power movements, however--who had witnessed the struggle to get the nation to change the term from Negro to Black-- the focus on nomenclature was nothing new, nor was the choice of the new term surprising. After all, the designations Afro-American and African American had been in wide use among black intellectuals, radical black nationalists, and their white followers in academia and literary circles for almost ten years. What was significant about the decision to use the designation was the debate it raised over rationales. On the one hand, no one could really object to the term African American, since most black people could, at least in theory, trace their ancestry to Africa. On the other hand, there was the historical necessity for accuracy. It could be argued that, in point of fact, most black Americans probably could not trace their heritage any further than a bill of sale from one slaveowner to another. This is not to deny their Africanness, but it did underscore the troubling question of precisely where in Africa one's origins lay. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, of course, most Africans forcibly brought to the Western hemisphere did remember their original homeland. But as time passed and slaves intermarried and/or were traded around, their knowledge of their homeland receded. Even more important, as black Americans adapted to the dominant society's values and political . . .

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