African-American Experiences and Progress Since Slavery
Artifact #1: Harriet Wilson Statue
Artifact #2: African Meeting House
Artifact #3: Frederick Douglass Monument
Christine Muriithi, Student, Fitchburg State University
Slavery is part of the United States history. African Americans have been at the center of discussions surrounding slavery and the progresses made after slavery. For example, the African-Americans’ experiences during and after slavery are integral in understanding its impact on society. It is also important in understanding the progress they and society, in general, have made to put the horrors of slavery behind them. In this course, my main focus was exploring the progress African-Americans have made since the period of slavery by focusing on artistic representation of the different aspects of their lives, cultural figures, and their experiences. With an emphasis on how African-Americans have dealt with the experiences of slavery, racial discrimination, and systemic racism, my mini-exhibition was focused on understanding the positive progress African-Americans have made by bringing together three important artefacts that provide visual representation of African-American history and experiences. The common theme about the three artefacts is the fact that they all show progress that have been made by African-Americans post-slavery.
The reason I put these three artifacts together was to demonstrate the progress African-Americans have made since the time of slavery and how their experiences during slavery still impact their lives. The first artifact is Harriet Wilson’s monument in Milford. This monument is significant because of how it tells the story of women’s struggles post-slavery. As a free woman, Harriet struggled to fit into the industrial world. She worked different jobs just to feed her child. However, the discrimination she underwent were mainly motivated by her gender as a woman and her ethnicity as an African American. What her story tells us is that women’s stories have been ignored. They have experienced more horrors in society than African-American men. As society is built to perceive the white race as superior, so are men seen as the dominant gender. The second artifact focuses on the African Meeting House as a monument. This was the first African-American church after slavery. It is a representation of the deep-rooted racial discrimination that they experienced at the hands of the white Americans. The third artifact also shows the monument of Frederick Douglass, who is an important figure among African-Americans. He fought to social reforms and wrote against slavery. Through his eyes, people saw the horrors of slavery and the need for social reforms to improve the lives of the African-Americans. In this regard, the three artefacts are connected by how they present African-Americans’ progress after slavery.
By bringing these artifacts together, I want to emphasize the impact slavery had on African Americans. The artifacts provide a picture of their experiences penetrating the industrial world, an insight into the horrors of slavery, and the discriminatory acts they experienced after slavery. In other words, African-Americans still go through racism. Particularly, systemic racism prevents them from accessing good jobs in the industrial world, evidenced by the struggles of Harriet Wilson. The experiences of Harriet and Frederick Douglass also demonstrate how far African-Americans have come as a community. Compared to the way things are today, it is important to note that the cases of racial discrimination that we see today show that there is still a long way to go with regard to racial equality and equity. Therefore, even though the artifacts show us what freed slaves experienced, it also shows us that no significant progress has been made with regard to the fair treatment of Black community. Therefore, I expect to demonstrate how the experiences of the Blacks haven’t changed much since slavery and the need to do more to achieve racial equality and equity.
Lastly, this mini-exhibition is significant in informing readers about the experiences of Blacks. Many scholars have focused on exploring their experiences during slavery. However, the impact of slavery is still felt today. African-Americans still undergo discrimination and racial prejudice. Therefore, exploring the experiences of the Blacks after slavery is significant in painting a picture of what society must do to improve racial relations.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Yale University Press, 2016.
Ellis, Richard John. Harriet Wilson's Our Nig: A Cultural Biography of a "Two-Story" African American Novel. Vol. 149. Rodopi, 2003.
Horton, James Oliver. Landmarks of African American History. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Mackey, Thomas C. A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era: Volume 2, Political Arguments. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2013.
Washington, Booker T. Up from slavery. Simon and Schuster, 2013.