Black History: Past, Present, and Future

By Natalie Williams, Chief Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB) Officer, APHSA    February 13, 2024

The history of Black Americans has had an influence far outside the members of that community, and its profound impact can be felt throughout the world in terms of culture, politics, social movements, and the arts. As we look to create a world where all people belong, these contributions and accomplishments can provide a guiding light on our path.

Looking back over the last century, prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin Bayard, and Rosa Parks led the Civil Rights Movement, which aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination. Their activist counterparts, such as Malcolm X and Angela Davis, played crucial roles in advocating for global justice and human rights. Together, the groundswell of organizing during the 1950s and 1960s reverberated globally, fostering solidarity and inspiring political movements such as the anti-apartheid and climate justice movements.

The works of Black American writers, such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, provide insight into the African American experience while taking their well-deserved place within the American canon. Their works also have the virtue of addressing universal themes of identity, inequality, and resilience that have connected people from various backgrounds worldwide.

Black Americans have also played a significant role in establishing global music trends and standards. This fact can most clearly be seen through jazz, blues, gospel, and hip-hop genres. These musical forms have shaped American culture and gained international popularity, influencing artists worldwide.

From music to the general entertainment industry, Black Americans have become international icons while breaking barriers and challenging racial prejudices. They have filled stadiums and become cultural ambassadors, from past entertainers like Sidney Poitier, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali to current ones such as Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé.

In this century, we see a continuation in this direction, with the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States symbolizing a step forward in race relations. Not just to Americans but also citizens in other countries where his administration emboldened marginalized communities to strive for leadership roles.

Recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, have sparked global conversations about systemic racism and inequality. Protests and solidarity movements have emerged worldwide, highlighting the interconnectedness of struggles against racial injustice.

Black American history has left an indelible mark on the world, influencing culture, inspiring movements for justice, and challenging oppressive systems globally. The resilience and achievements of Black Americans continue to shape the narrative of human rights and equality worldwide, and it’s for that reason we celebrate Black History Month.

About the Author

Natalie Williams (full bio)

Chief Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Officer
American Public Human Services Association

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