The second most segregated place in America

Thanks to Katie (somehooser) on Flicker

Thanks to Katie (somehooser) on Flicker

Christmas has come and gone and once again I received a bookworm’s most coveted gift, a gift certificate to Half-Price Books. I have a long list of history books, old and new, that I am looking for so I went straight to the American History section and started browsing. I searched for some titles about two labor leaders I am interested in, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. This year is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the reunion will again be in my hometown, Oxford Ohio, where the students were trained on the Western University campus. Nothing. Not even titles I already have.
“Twelve Years a Slave”, a new movie is also an old book that I have not yet read. No copy of it either. I felt really stupid when I realized what the problem was. You see for book stores there are two, no, three, American histories and they cannot mix. I was in “American History” and someone in some marketing department somewhere decided long ago that “American History” was straight, white, wealthy (for the most part), Protestant, male history. All the books I was looking for were in exile off the the side in a section called “African American Studies” which is a little easier to find that “Gender Studies” where women’s (except maybe First Ladies and Betsey Ross) and LGTB history are hidden.
I get a little angry every time I think about this. What were they thinking when they started segregating our history? The first African born man, a Muslim to explore what is now the United States came with an expedition from Catholic Spain in 1527, the first English WASP did not show up until 1585. Since 1619 there have been African and European descended Americans working side by side. Not always as equals, but definitely working side by side. The fact is they were equals at first, indentured servants who would regain their freedom once their debt was paid. Unfortunately lawyers, politicians, and capitalists got together and soon the indentured servants who did not have political clout in mother England were chattel property.
We have been side by side since the beginning of the Colonies and certainly since the beginning of the nation, the first man killed in the Revolution was of African ancestry. How is that not “American History”? Pentecostal Churches date to the Great Awakening and their practices are a blend of European and African worship. The banjo, the staple of Bluegrass music originated in Africa. Blues and Jazz are blends of African and European music styles. Rock is just “white” Americans adopting “Black” American music. America has an Afro-European culture.
I would dare say that African and European genes run through most of us and that if your grandparents were born here it is very likely that you have ancestors from at least two continents. Shouldn’t all of our history share the same shelves?


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Filed under Education, Politics

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