Understanding the Importance of African American Studies

There is such a great importance to the studies of African American History. As stated by George Santayana, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

The history of the African Americans in America can sometimes be a touchy subject because of all the attachments that comes along with the story. The mere thought of the North American slave trade in such a modern time as this causes many to feel uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as it may seem I think there is a lot to be celebrated post the Slavery Era, Reconstruction Era and Civil Rights Era. Through the proper study of African American History/American History/World History one can see the great maturity of a Nation!

African Americans and America have come alone way since our original blend in 1619 when the first 20 slaves arrived to the Colony of Jamestown, Virginia. If you truly examine the tenacity and the courage that was displayed by these Africans turned Americans you would be nothing but inspired. Here you have a people that even when being bound by chains and restricted by the laws of the land, still found a way to rise above these complexities.

A clear and precise study of the African American people should be mandatory to all Americans because many of the traditional History books in the classrooms throughout American have left many to believe that the African American people have always been a helpless/hopeless people, a people of despair. However, when one thoroughly study and examine the likes of Anthony Johnson who was one of the original 20 slaves turned first African American Entrepreneur, Denmark Vesey who fought to liberate his people from slavery by organizing 9000 slaves and freemen to revolt and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler who was the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the US, they would conclude that African Americans have always been innovators, fighters and intelligent.Growing up as a young African American male I often felt lost as if I had no identity. In my mind all whites were slave owners and all blacks were slaves. I lived with this for some 30 years. This made me feel as if whites were superior and that we as blacks were inferior. Once I became a dad to a boy child I had it in my mind that my son could not and would not grow up not knowing who he is as an African American. So I told myself that I must learn and teach from this point on. When my son reached his preschool years and Black History Month rolled around I felt as if I was being put to the test. Of course he would start to learn about the first of Black History Month’s Fav 5 “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr”. I felt that there could not have been a better time than this to teach him more. Therefore, we packed our bags and headed to Atlanta for the weekend.

This trip to Atlanta was the start of his cultural education as well as mine. While in Atlanta we visited the Dr. King Memorial Site and King Center. My then 5 year old son was very intrigued with the images he saw on the walls throughout the King Center and was fascinated to actually see the very house that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in. Our Atlanta fun soon came to an end and we had to get back home to St. Louis and prepare for another week of pre-school and work. Though we had left Atlanta and had left the King Center my sons’ mind did not stop ticking. On our drive home my son inquisitiveness kicked into full gear. He asked me, “Daddy, can you turn off the radio so we can talk?” From this point on I became a true student of the history of people that defeated all odds.

Back home from our Atlanta trip my son would often sit on my lap, turn off the TV and ask, “Daddy, would you tell me about more important black people I should know about in our history?'” These questions and my own quest for knowledge led me to doing extensive research of the African American people. After spending countless days and nights studying I was beginning to fall in love with who I was as an African American. I know longer felt inferior; neither did I feel that whites were superiors.

For the first time in my life I felt that we were all the same. I found many eye opening facts like blacks and whites would work together, fight together and live together in times as early as the 1600’s. Do this mean that all blacks weren’t just slaves and that all whites weren’t just slave owners? That’s what it is beginning to look like. Why then are these things not discussed in classrooms and homes all across America? This would truly put an end to the age old race divide and would instill great self value and self worth to the millions of African American kids who grow up feeling the same way I did.Learning and teaching my own history (the African American History) in my own home led me to putting together a collection of phenomenal African American Achievers’ biographical summaries and composing them into a book entitled “RISEN: From Jamestown to the White House.” I wrote the book RISEN after being inspired by my now 8 year old son to inspire others through the lives and contributions of some great African American Achievers dating back to the year 1619 when the first 20 slaves arrived to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia up to our present day in time when we have a family occupying the White House that resembles those same 20 passengers that arrived some 300 years ago.

To conclude there is a great importance in studying African American History which includes instilling self worth/self value in African Americans, it showcases African Americans as we truly are, as a tenacious and hopeful people and it paints a beautiful picture of Americas Maturity!