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African American footprints in democracy

The history of African American dates back to the 1600s when on August of 1619 a journal entry recorded that “20 and odd” Angolans, kidnapped by the Portuguese, arrived in the British colony of Virginia and were then were bought by English colonists. The date and the story of the enslaved Africans have become symbolic of slavery’s roots, despite captive Africans likely being present in the Americas in the 1400s and as early as 1526 in the region that would become the United States. America’s society has intertwined race and culture together, for which the African American race has been struggling since its origin to the present day. Before the Civil War began, African Americans had only been able to vote in a few northern states, and there were virtually no black officeholders. After the Union victory in April 1865, USA saw extensive mobilisation within the black community, with meetings, parades and petitions calling for legal and political rights, including the all-important right to vote.

During the Black History Month in February 2020, from 1st February to 29th February, Christina Greer, P.h.D., Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, gave the keynote address of the event titled “Challenges to Democracy: Activism, Education and the 2020 Elections” to a crowd of about forty students, faculty, and members of the community of Saint Louis University in the Busch Student Center Wednesday, Feb. 19 for the university’s “Black Future Month.” Her research has focused on politics, from the local to the national level, specifically on topics related to African Americans and urban communities. She is currently researching and writing a history of all African Americans who have run for electoral office in the United States.

Greer used the figures of Shirley Chisholm, a Democratic representative of New York, and Charlene Mitchell, who ran for president in 1968 under the Communist Party, two of the first black women to run for national political office in the U.S., to highlight the problems of intersectionality in the history of women’s and minorities’ civil rights, as well as between how alternative political parties are often ignored by history, even while their ideas are absorbed.

She stated, “Just because someone didn’t win doesn’t mean that they should be erased from history.”

Eleven years ago, when Barack Obama took office as the first black president of the United States, it was a proud moment for many Americans. Obama’s election represented another advance in the slow but steady progress blacks have made in recent decades in gaining a greater foothold in political leadership, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Cabinets of recent presidents. However, many changes are required in the perception of American society to elevate the private, public, social, and political view of African Americans in the global sphere, especially in any democratic government.

Dibyasha Das