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... rks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. Her arrest resulted in a series of meetings of blacks in Montgomery and a boycott of buses on which racial segregation was practiced. The boycott, which lasted for more than a year, was almost 100 percent effective. Before the courts declared unconstitutional Montgomery's law requiring segregation on buses, Martin Luther KING, Jr. , a Baptist minister, had risen to national prominence and had articulated a strategy of non-violent direct action in the movement for CIVIL RIGHTS.
Blacks in the United States today are mainly an urban people. Their shift from the rural South to cities of the North and West during the 20 th century constitutes one of the major migrations of people in U. S. history.
This enormous shift of population has put severe strains on the fabric and social structure within both the old and new communities of migrating blacks. If one adds to this the problems of low income, high unemployment, poor education, and other problems related to racial discrimination, it could be said that the black community in the 20 th century has existed in a perpetual state of crisis. The black community, however, has developed a number of distinctive cultural features that black Americans increasingly look upon with pride. Many of these features reflect the influence of cultural traditions that originated in Africa; others reflect the uniqueness of the black American in the United States. The unique features of black American culture are most noticeable in music, art and literature, and religion. They may also exist in speech, extended family arrangements, dress, and other features of life-style.
Whether African ancestry or survival in the hostile environment of slavery and Jim Crow was more important in shaping existing cultural patterns of black American life is a question that requires further study. Black American traditions in music reflect the mingling of African roots with the American experience. BLUES and can be traced back to the African call-and-response chant, in which a solo verse line is alternated with a choral response of a short phrase or word. They also reflect the personal experiences of blacks and the difficult adjustments demanded in the American environment. Bessie SMITH and W. C.
HANDY stand out as major figures in the development of this form of music. JAZZ, a direct descendant of blues, developed among blacks in New Orleans and spread with their migration. By 1920 it was popular throughout the country. The enduring popularity of Louis ARMSTRONG and Duke ELLINGTON over several decades attests to its continuing attraction. The influence of jazz on other forms of popular music in America is clearly recognized. After World War II such popular performers as Nat King COLE and Lena HORNE gained international acclaim.
Later international audiences were won by Johnny MATHIS, Diana ROSS, and Michael JACKSON. BLACK AMERICAN LITERATURE and art were slower to develop than was black music. Early artists and writers who were black dealt with themes that, in selection and approach, were indistinguishable from the works of whites. By the 1920 s centers of artistic activity had developed, the best known being in New York. The HARLEM RENAISSANCE, as this artistic outpouring was known, produced outstanding figures. Among them were poets Langston HUGHES, County CULLEN, and James Weldon JOHNSON; writers Claude MCKAY and Jean TOOMER.
The work of the Harlem Renaissance and writers such as Richard WRIGHT reflected the growing race consciousness among blacks and their opposition to the segregation encountered in all forms of life. These themes continue to be important in the work of such writers as James BALDWIN, Amiri BARAKA, Gwendolyn BROOKS, Ralph ELLISON, Douglas Turner WARD, and John A. WILLIAMS. Religion has traditionally been important to black American life.
The first major denomination among blacks, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, grew from the church established by Richard Allen in Philadelphia in 1787. With Emancipation, most former slaves joined Baptist or Methodist churches. These remain today as the church groups with the largest black memberships. Smaller numbers belong to other denominations and to independent churches of varying sizes. Among non-Christian religious groups that have attracted sizeable followings are the Peace Mission of Father DIVINE and the Nation of Islam, often referred to as the Black Muslims The Peace Mission is strongly integrationist in teachings, a concept opposed by the Nation of Islam during most of its history. In recent years the racial character of leadership and members of the Peace Mission have become increasingly white.
In 1985 the main Black Muslim group was unified with the Muslim community world-wide. Black ministers who have figured prominently in politics during the post-World War II period include Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr. , Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. , Leon Sullivan, and Andrew YOUNG. The black family through much of U. S. history has borne the strain of slavery and Jim Crow.
These institutions limited the opportunity for the black male to fulfill his traditional role of head of household and protector of and provider for his family. Because women were often able to find domestic employment when no jobs were available to black men, women often provided more dependable and regular incomes. Statistically, black women are more frequently the head of families than is the case in non black families. In addition to problems of unemployment, urbanisation produced strains of overcrowding, weakening of the extended family concept, and alienation.
Nevertheless, relations among family members have traditionally been close. Many first-and second-generation city-dwelling blacks continue to think of home as the Southern place from which the family came. Until the post-World War II period, most blacks seeking higher education attended private BLACK COLLEGES located mainly in the South. Most of these had been started in the years immediately following the Civil War as a joint effort of blacks, Northern church groups, and the Freedmen's Bureau. Among these were Fisk University, Atlanta University, Talladega College, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. Late in the 19 th century Tuskegee Institute was founded by Booker T.
Washington, and a number of colleges were established by black church groups. Almost all blacks who received a college education before 1940 attended these institutions. In the 1940 s some improvement was made in publicly supported institutions of higher education for blacks, and for the first time black students began to appear in colleges that had previously been all white. In the 1970 s the percentage of blacks attending college increased markedly, but in the 1980 s blacks lost ground. Although desegregation of the public schools in the South proceeded slowly for the first decade after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, by 1969 school districts in every state were at least in token compliance with the 1954 ruling.
By that time all forms of de jure segregation had been struck down by the courts. De facto school segregation continued, however, in large part because the communities the schools served were segregated in their residential patterns. This was particularly true in large urban areas and more prevalent in the North than in the South. One method adopted to overcome such segregation was to bus children across school district lines in order to achieve racial balance in the schools.
This caused major controversy and led to instances of violent opposition. The overwhelming majority of black children now attend formally integrated schools, although they may have little contact with white pupils even within the schools. Bibliography:
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