‘Becoming American’

Scholar Howard Dodson provides a world’s view of the African American journey

Americans that has ever been made. But there is a larger kind of subtext to the subtitle: The African American Journey. The subtext is that America itself is still becoming America. The notion of the United States specifically becoming America, as described in its founding creed, is a process that is over 200 years old and is not yet complete.

What I hope this book reveals is that our history goes back really to the beginning of human kind. It’s been central and core to the evolution of the United States and has touched America and has indeed in many instances defined America in ways that have not been fully recognized by the broad, general public, both black and white.

Becoming American

Excerpted from Becoming American: The African American Journey by Howard Dodson (Sterling Publishing, Available Feb. 3, 2009)

Too often, the telling of the story of African Americans begins with the transatlantic slave trade, and the whole of our history has too frequently been organized around our victimization during the eras of slavery and racial segregation. The triumphs of the civil rights movement, especially the role of Martin Luther King Jr., are chronicled, as are the recent challenges facing blacks in urban America. The centrality of blacks’ self-initiated activities in the making of African American history is not always apparent, and their active role over the last two hundred plus years in defining and redefining the very concept of America and Americans is usually not fully appreciated.

Becoming American: The African American Journey offers a unique chronological approach that affords readers an opportunity to begin discovering the active, generative role blacks have played in the making of America as we know it today. It also reveals the ways in which blacks’ attempts to make America live up to its founding creed have kept them on the path to “Becoming American.”

Chronologies like timelines are useful devices for locating specific people, events, and activities in their proper contexts. African American history, which traces its roots back to Africa, has unfolded within the context of the formation, development, and underdevelopment of the American (USA) nation-state as well as the broader African and global world. While there is not always a causal relationship among events, people, and activities, there are frequently associational ones. Events in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, for instance, frequently resonate with, if not draw some inspiration from, events and movements in the United States. And vice versa. The anticolonial struggles in Africa during the 1950s and 1960s inspired the civil rights movement in the United States. And the civil rights movement was a catalyst for the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa.

Of equal significance, the victories won by African Americans in their civil and human rights struggles encouraged the development of the women’s and gay rights movements among others.

Reading Becoming American helps us see and understand the ways in which the African- American experience relates to and at times interacts with things that are

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