Rising Black Consciousness | Virginia Museum of History & Culture
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Rising Black Consciousness

Part of the reasoning cited in the Brown decision was that discrimination had a criplling effect on the self-esteem of black pupils. As the civil rights movement gained ground, removing the stigma of inferiority not only in schools but throughout society, black pride increased. The terms "colored" and "negro" gave way to "Afro-American" and "black." Magazines such as Ebony flourished. Kwanzaa celebrations were created to recognize an African value system supporting group identity, and the "Afro" and other African-inspired hairstyles and modes of dress became popular. There was broad interest in and wide acceptance of black music by the mainstream media. In 1977 the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley's book about a black family in America, attracted an audience of 130,000,000 Americans and became the most-watched television special in history.

Arthur Ashe, Jr. (1943–1993)There was increased interest by blacks and whites in African and African American history. Virginia State University professor Edgar Toppin and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History were instrumental in desegregating the study of American history by increasing awareness of African American contributions and historical figures. By February 1976, Negro History Week, conceived by Virginia-born Carter G. Woodson, had evolved into Black History Month. Black studies courses and academic departments were founded. Games, puzzles, and collectible cards were produced with black history themes. Virginia's Department of Historic Resources increased the number of roadside historical markers noting black achievements and rewrote the text of old signs that perpetuated racial stereotypes. New interest was taken in saving historic structures in the black community and in finding viable uses for them.

Among some young people, black thinking went full circle, rejecting the goal of integration in favor of black separatism and self-sufficiency. The "Black Power" movement, which irritated the civil rights establishment, sought to empower African Americans so that they would not need white cooperation to achieve a just society. But in a nation that was still 90 percent white, this was delusional unless blacks decided to return to Africa—and very few did.

Go to next chapter - The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement


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