Do African Americans historically matter?

SpeakingInColorThe Civil Rights Movement and other activist groups have brought about the evolution of African Americans who make a stand for what they believe in. This evolution includes organizers and marchers of the Black Lives Matter activist group.

This year, the group gathered at the Minnesota State Fair and chanted their message of racial inequities and unfair treatment of minorities, which gained national attention. The movement campaigns against police brutality of all minorities especially African Americans.

The group has been referred to as the new Civil Rights Movement. From their website they are quoted as saying, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black, queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all black lives along the gender spectrum.”

As I watched a news segment of the Black Lives Matter group, I began to wonder, “When will this all end? When will the violence stop? When will people no longer have to march? When will there be mandatory laws in place that are better enforced? When will minority voices be heard by those with authoritative power,” and “Are African Americans asking too much when they say Black lives matter?”

If one doesn’t remember the struggle, but only has text book knowledge or word-of-mouth acceptance of a history of people who survived an oppressive caste system, then understanding present-day events cannot be accomplished. Since the 1600s African Americans have been waiting for a change to come, and sometimes that wait has been like watering flowers that are already dead.

When slavery (1620-1800) was outlawed it was replaced with racial discrimination and injustice by the black codes (1800–1866). These were laws of control, which restricted the rights of freed Black slaves. During this time vagrancy laws were included in the Black Codes. If you were homeless, unemployed, or between jobs you were arrested and fined as a vagrant. Because African Americans could not pay their fines they were sent to county labor camps or hired out to a private employer while still experiencing control, enslavement, and servitude.

The reconstruction era abolished the black codes, which were soon followed by the Jim Crow Laws (1866 -1965). The Jim Crow Laws were a series of rigid anti-Black laws that were enforced. Convict leasing and sharecropping also became another way to control the African American.

The practice of control and enslavement in all its forms lasted for the African American well into the 20th century. African Americans even today are held in bondage as a result of the history of what they have experienced. Present-day African Americans still wait for a change. Are African Americans asking too much when they confront this issue with dignity by saying to the world that Black lives matter?

A history untold has a habit of repeating itself and maybe African Americans who are accused of not getting over the past are angry because that is how the “forgotten voices” have over the years learned how to react in anger.

From the beginning of time (slavery to the present) Black lives have always mattered, whether the White man has accepted this or not. It is the experiences of the minority — past, present and future — that we will always draw from, which gives light and meaning to our protests.


  1. Ellis is a freelance writer that lives in Minneapolis.