African Americans

McKenzie Miller and Karli Splan

Background Information

  • African American by definition: A black American of African descent
  • Mainly from African ancestors, but many have nonblack ancestors as well
  • African Americans roughly make up 12% of the United States population as of the last census in 2010
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How did African Americans come to the Americas?

  • African Americans first arrived in the area that became the United States in 1619, when captives were sold by the captain of a Dutch man-of-war to settlers at Jamestown.
  • Others were brought in in high and increasing numbers to fill the desire for labor in a country in which land was plentiful and labor was scarce
  • Often they were forced out of their African homelands and forced to work
  • By the end of the 17th century, roughly 1.3 million Africans landed in the Americas
  • About 6 million between 1701 and 1810
  • Then around 1.8 million arriving after 1810

The Middle Passage


  • The stage of the triangular trade in which millions of Africans were shipped to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade

  • The Atlantic slave trade operated from the late 16th to early 19th centuries, carrying slaves, cash crops, and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean or American colonies and the European colonial powers

  • Ships departed Europe for African markets with manufactured goods, which were traded for purchased or kidnapped Africans, who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves

  • The slaves were then sold or traded for raw materials, which would later be transported back to Europe to complete the triangle

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Slave Conditions During the Middle Passage

  • Amistad Video, 2:00
  • The captured African Americas were packed below the decks of the ships
  • The men were often restrained in some way
  • They were all packed so tightly that they were unable to access the toilet buckets resulting in them laying in their own filth
  • Seasickness, heat, and lack of air and circulation contributed to the terrible smell
  • Diseases were common and spread like wild fire, particularly fevers and the "bloody flux", also known as gastroenteritis

How did the U.S. constitution address the issues of slavery?

  • U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 2, clause 3

    "Representatives...shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."



  • The three-fifths compromise declared that for purpose of representation in Congress, enslaved blacks in a state would be counted as three-fifths of the number of white inhabitants of that state.

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Contemporary Issues Effecting African Americans (3)

  1. Many African Americans consider racial profiling a huge problem. Racial profiling refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
  2. Too many black children attend overcrowded and underfunded public schools that are racially and economically segregated in America nowadays. African American children are suspended from school at higher rates than their white counterparts, and introduced to the criminal justice system in elementary school.
  3. Many black workers earn considerably less than whites.
    In 2008 a survey was done that that proved black men earned only 71% of what white men earned. The median hourly wage for black male full-time workers was $14.90 compared to white workers earning $20.84.
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