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The Black Freedom Struggle website contains select primary source documents related to critical people and events in African American history. By centering on the experiences and perspectives of African Americans, this collection imbues the study of Black history with a deeper understanding of the humanity of people who have pursued the quest for freedom, and the significance of movements like Black Lives Matter.
From the Editors
In recent years, the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have contributed to an overdue collective outrage against the long history of discrimination and violence against African Americans in the U.S., sparking widespread demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.
Originally brought to the American colonies primarily in an enslaved status, people of African descent in the United States have waged a long and determined struggle for freedom. In his beautifully written study, There is a River, the late historian and pastor Vincent Harding compared the Black Freedom Struggle to a river, sometimes running slow and narrow, at other times running swift and wide.
In the introduction to There is a River, Harding wrote: “I was especially concerned to try to convey its long, continuous movement, flowing like a river, sometimes powerful, tumultuous, and roiling with life; at other times meandering and turgid, covered with the ice and snow of seemingly endless winters, all too often streaked and running with blood.” Harding goes on to note: “the dynamics and justice of its movement have continually gathered others to itself, have persistently filled other men and women with the force of its vision, its indomitable hope. And at its best the river of our struggle has moved consistently toward the ocean of humankind’s most courageous hopes for freedom and integrity…” [Vincent Harding, There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (New York, 1981) p. xix]
In this website, we present primary source documents from several of the time periods in American History when the river of the Black Freedom Struggle ran more powerfully, while not losing sight of the fierce, often violent opposition that Black people have faced on the road to freedom.
This website contains approximately 1,600 documents focused on six different phases of Black Freedom:
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