Studying the history of Black people in America will uncover two tales, one of surprisingly persistent and cruel oppression, and the simultaneous triumph of persistence and spirit. Black history is an illustration of how the human spirit can defy the odds.
Because the odds have been stacked against Black folk, intentionally so, since America’s founding. Despite this; despite slavery and Jim Crow, despite terrorism and destruction, people keep slipping through and succeeding.
There is a laundry list of Black people who have done the remarkable when they really shouldn’t have. They shouldn’t have because there were people and a whole system of government set up to stop them.
There was Richard Allen who was kicked out of church in 1786 for being Black. He responded by founding a denomination that is still thriving today.
Alexander Twilight, a Black man who graduated from college in 1823, a time when almost no one studied past grade school. Not only that, but many of those who had been to college were forwarding arguments that Black people weren’t fully human.
There was Biddy Mason, a woman brought to California as a slave in 1850. Upon discovering that slavery was illegal in California Biddy sued for her freedom and won. She took to freedom well founding schools, a church, and invested in property. She amassed a fortune.
There have been so many examples of exemplary individuals that we could easily forget the opposition over which such success stories triumph.
Should we be proud of Hank Aaron or ashamed of how White Americans treated him?
Proud of MLK’s anti-violence or ashamed that he was murdered?
The answer is in all cases yes, because this is our American history. It is who we are.