The African Americans

Search for Truth and Knowledge

By Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Jr.

Part Nineteen: African Americans and the Revolutionary Era

"Give me liberty or give me death" is a cry of defiance that has been credited to Patrick Henry, a slave-owning American patriot from Virginia. It is a cry that affected many people during the Revolutionary War period. It greatly affected the American colonists who were rebelling against British rule and were prepared to give their lives for their beliefs. It also affected African Americans, those who were free as well as those who were slaves.

The response of the African American to the great issues of the time had an enormous impact on the future of White and Black America. Two major factors were of primary importance. The basic framework of the institutional structures of the African American community was established during the Revolutionary War era. At the same time the cyclical pattern of African American response to the American experience was institutionalized. Both have become permanent features of African American life.

Out of the Revolutionary War era emerges the rudiments and foundations of the three major institutions within the African American community: the church, the school, and the fraternal order. The African American Church is the center of spirituality and worship, but it is also the focal point of communal activities¬óreligious, social, cultural, economic and political. The African American School is the center for instruction and training as well as a major source for the transmission of values of the General American Society. In contrast, the home is the source for the transmission of African American values. The Fraternal Brotherhood Societies and Sisterhood Societies are the centers for leadership development and training where the individual learns about community accountability and collective responsibility. These institutions are crucial for group development because African Americans have systematically been kept out of the political, economic, social and cultural institutions of America.

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