“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]”
-Editors of The Black Freedom Struggle
The Black Freedom Struggle collects approximately 1,600 documents focused on six different phases of Black Freedom:
- Slavery and the Abolitionist Movement (1790-1860)
- The Civil War and the Reconstruction Era (1861-1877)
- Jim Crow Era from 1878 to the Great Depression (1878-1932)
- The New Deal and World War II (1933-1945)
- The Civil Rights and Black Power Movements (1946-1975)
- The Contemporary Era (1976-2000)