Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Editor's Comment

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Editor's Comment

Article excerpt

Persons of Black African ancestry live as citizens, foreign nationals, and indigenous populations on every continent as a result of immigration, colonialism and slave trading. Today, most Black people in the Americas are the progeny of victims of the transatlantic slave trade. However, the historic legacy of Black people in the Western Hemisphere is not limited to slavery. The Olmec heads found along the Mexican Gulf Coast is striking evidence of African colonies in the Americas centuries before Columbus arrived in the Caribbean (Van Sertima, 2003). Black people were also responsible for establishing the world's first free Black republic, and only the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, with the Haitian Revolution (Geggus, 2001).

In the United States, almost 500,000 African Americans were free prior to the Civil War and were immensely instrumental in shaping U.S. policy throughout abolition and beyond. Post Civil War, African Americans influenced U.S. arts, agriculture, foods, textile, language, and invented technological necessities such as the traffic light and elevators, and parts necessary to build the automobile and personal computer. All of these contributions were necessary for the U.S. to become a world power by the 20th century (Toldson, 2008).

Racism and oppression are forces that have shaped the experiences and development of Black people worldwide. Although European colonialists initially enslaved Black people because of their agricultural expertise and genetic resistance to diseases, they used racist propaganda to justify their inhumane practices (Loewen, 1996). The vestiges of racism and oppression survived centuries after propaganda campaigns ended and influence all human interactions, including academic relationships.

Today, racism is perpetuated most profoundly through the educational system (Loewen, 1996). Loewen pointed out that students are taught to revere Columbus, who nearly committed genocide against the native population of the Dominican Republic; and Woodrow Wilson who openly praised the Ku Klux Klan in the pretext to the racist propaganda movie, "The Birth of the Nation." Although many of these facts are not well known and purposefully disguised in history texts, children often leave traditional elementary and secondary education with the sense that aside from a few isolated figures, Black people had a relatively small role in the development of modern nations (May, Willis, & Loewen, 2003).

Contemporary research on the health and economic status of Black people, especially in the U.S., is dismal. Evidence is often presented that indicates that African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality of any given mental or physical disorder, are more deeply impacted by social ills, and generally have the lowest level of academic attainment. While most of the statistics are accurately presented, rationales are usually baseless and findings typically lack a sociohistorical context. In addition, studies on African Americans unfairly draw social comparisons to the social groups that historically benefited from their oppression (Toldson, 2008). Historical distortions accompanying dismal statistics have resulted in many educators and researchers perpetually using a deficit model when working with Black students. …

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