Power and the Black Community: A Reader on Racial Subordination in the United States

By Sethard Fisher | Go to book overview

16. Essay Review—Negro Life
and Social Process

This chapter, the final one in Part IV, attempts to characterize the overall social process that has regulated black American adaptation to society. This process differs from that operative among immigrant groups In Important ways. Suggestions are made by which the process of social retardation may be changed, and the progressive movement of black Americans to social, political, and economic equality with whites realized.


SETHARD FISHER

Once again, cries for social justice, equality, and dignity for American Negroes have gained momentum and intensity. Once again, national policy is favorable to the "cause." Yet Negroes have been appointed to high office in earlier times. They gained the franchise many years ago and have been before the cause for massive upsurges of moral indignation. The awesome tale of exploitation, cruelty, and injustice which recounts the history of Negroes in American society has not reached the happy end which some current events may suggest. Ethnicity remains a decided hindrance rather than help to Negroes; a shameful rather than prideful matter. Blackness and dignity remain incompatible in American culture.

How strangely incongruent the Negro experience of today with the image of what it would be like held by two former slaves who became prominent advocates of the Negro cause, Frederick Douglass1 and Booker T. Washington. 2 Following emancipation and the end of the Civil War, Douglass' work with the Anti-Slavery Society was over and his fight for the cause of free Negroes began. Seeing freedom without power as empty, he undertook the cause of enfranchisement of Negroes. The movement for Negro suffrage grew rapidly; by 1870 the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments had been adopted. With passage, Douglass said: "Negro men are today invested with complete citizenship—the right to vote and be voted for in the American Republic." 3 Yet the following account appears in the recently published Mississippi Black Paper:

____________________
From Social Problems ( Winter 1966), Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 343-353; reprinted by permission of The Society for the Study of Social Problems.I want to acknowledge my debt to Sheldon L. Messinger for helpful editorial assistance and stimulating conversations about the Negro problem. I have also benefited from critical readings of the paper by Myrtha Chabran.

-213-

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