Relations between black and white Americans have never been amicable, but at few points in history have they been characterized by greater strain than they are at the present time. The history of race relations in the United States has been one in which white people have maintained a position of dominance over black people, relegating them to a lower castelike position in the society. Throughout this long history black people have attempted to liberate themselves from oppression by a variety of means, but these attempts either have been suppressed or have been ignored. In the current crisis black people are making greater demands than they have before, and, while they have made some gains, especially in the last decade, the gap between living standards for black and white Americans is still a vast one.
The present study attempts to present a reasonably complete picture of the status of black people in the United States at the present time. It begins with their first arrival in 1619 and continues up to the present time. Because the history of black people is a complicated one, it has been necessary to sacrifice detail for a recounting of the major events directly relevant to their present status. Life in a racist society for more than 350 years has led to the formation of a vast underclass of citizens in the United States, maintained by differential access to rewards in all social institutions. The oppressed status of black people, then, is a direct result of social arrangements and practices. Therefore, the major emphasis of the present study has been placed on an. analysis of the forces in American society which have been responsible for creating and maintaining the subordinate position of black people. Racism in American life is so entrenched and the determination of black Americans for liberation is so great that the present crisis in race relations was inevitable.
Since the First Edition of Black Americans in 1969 little change in the status of black people relative to whites in the United States has come about, but in the time between that edition and the present one many changes have occurred in the mind and mood of black Americans. Chief among these has been the ascendancy of nationalist sentiment in the black community. This change is reflected in Chapter Nine in the Second Edition which replaces Chapter Six (Contributions to American Life) of the First Edition. In addition, this edition incorporates the changes in . . .