African-American History: Lyrical Footnotes



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African-American History: Lyrical Footnotes






First Round of Associations

Second Round of Associations

Third Round of Associations

Middle Passage [1]

Gold Coast [13]

Slave Castles [25]

15 of 50 million [37]

Slavery [2]

4 million [14]

Plantations [26]

“peculiar institution” [38]

Emancipation Proclamation [3]

Abraham Lincoln [15]

13th Amendment [27]

Keep the British out [39]

Civil War [4]

Slavery? [16]

54th Massachusetts [28]

Liberation? [40]

Reconstruction [5]

Black Codes [17]

14th Amendment [29]

Sharecropping [41]

Jim Crow Segregation [6]

Separate worlds [18]

Plessy v. Ferguson [30]

Brown decision [42]

Great Migration [7]

Go North! [19]

Industrial jobs [31]

Cultural diffusion [43]

Urbanization [8]

Ghettoes [20]

New middle class [32]

Red Lining [44]

Harlem Renaissance [9]

Langston Hughes [21]

Jazz [33]

New Negro [45]

Two World Wars [10]

Segregated Army [22]

Tuskegee Airmen [34]

Army integration [46]

Civil Rights Movement [11]

Martin Luther King Jr. [23]

Malcolm X [35]

Civil Rights Act [47]

De Jure Equal Rights [12]

De facto? [24]

Affirmative action [36]

Barack Obama[48]



1) Middle Passage: Middle Passage was the Trans-Atlantic journey of slaves from Africa to the Americas. It was the middle leg of the triangular trade between Europe,

Africa and America. Conditions on the transport ships were harsh and

overcrowded. On average, 10-40% of the slaves died during the journey.
2) Slavery: Africans were enslaved in the Americas for almost 400 years. Most

captives were brought to islands in the Caribbean or South America.


3) Emancipation Proclamation: Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, two years into the Civil War. The decree freed all slaves in territory in rebellion against Union forces.
4) Civil War: The Civil War (1861-1865) was the bloodiest conflict in American

history. African-American slavery was a key factor bringing about the War.


5) Reconstruction: The period after the Civil War is called Reconstruction (1865-1877). As the Army of the North occupied the defeated South, it was a time of new opportunities for freed blacks and also serious disappointments.
6) Jim Crow: Jim Crow was the name of the Southern system of segregation put

into effect after the Civil War. Blacks and whites lived practically in two separate worlds.


7) Great Migration: In the late 1800s and early 1900s over a million blacks left the

South and moved North or West, mainly to growing urban centers.


8) Urbanization: In the early 20th Century southern blacks began to populate in very large numbers major American cities, especially in the northeast and Midwest, spurred by numerous manufacturing jobs during WWI and WWII.
9) Harlem Renaissance: In the 1920s, the black neighborhood just north of New York City’s Central Park became a mecca of black cultural creativity in music, dance, and literature, as well as economic upward mobility.
10) Two World Wars: World War I 1914-1918 (America entered in 1917) - the enemy was Germany. World War II 1939-1945 (America entered in 1941) - the enemy was Germany, Japan, and Italy (the Axis). Blacks fought in segregated units during both world wars.
11) Civil Rights Movement: The final of several coordinated and highly unified nationwide efforts by African-Americans and their supporters to end racial segregation and to gain equal rights in access to education, employment, and housing.
12) De Jure Equal Rights: De Jure is a Latin term meaning based on law.

Statutes designed to secure equal treatment of Americans, regardless of race, may have been the law (de jure), but they were not necessarily enforced in fact (de facto).


13) Gold Coast: The area in West Africa, presently called Ghana, where the Portuguese in the late 1400s first established a successful trading colony, which would eventually become the center of the highly lucrative African Slave Trade.
14) 4 Million: At the outbreak of the Civil War, the population of the Southern states was nine million, four million being black slaves.
15) Abraham Lincoln: The 16th President of the United States was a Republican who was against the expansion of slavery. His election in 1860 precipitated the secession of those southern states that would come to be know as the Confederacy.
16) Slavery?: Historians who analyze the causes of the Civil War have different views of the relative importance of slavery compared to other major causes such as sectionalism and states’ rights.
17) Black Codes: After the end of the Civil War in 1865, in order to return blacks to a subservient role in the defeated South, each state instituted a series of oppressive rules and requirements on former slave.
18) Separate Worlds: Jim Crow laws (1876-1965) created a system of strict racial separation enforced by law and custom throughout the south between 1876 (the end of Reconstruction) and 1965 (passage of the Civil Rights Act). The system was similar to apartheid in South Africa. There were separate facilities for whites and blacks, restricting nearly every area of public and private life, including education, transportation, employment, housing and entertainment.
19) Go North!: In the early 20th century, the mechanization of farming in the south, which lessened the need for black field hands, and the availability of new northern factory jobs, especially with the outbreak of World War I, caused a large migration of southern blacks to northern cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New York.
20) Ghettoes: Housing patterns in the north and south were highly segregated. Often, whites would not sell houses to blacks. As such, most African-Americans rented within rundown areas of the city, which came to be know by the 1960s as “ghettoes,” a word derived from Jewish urban enclaves in Europe.
21) Langston Hughes: Brilliant poet, playwright, columnist who came to symbolize the genius of the Harlem Renaissance.

22) Segregated Army: The United States military services were segregated in both World War I and World War II. With few exceptions, white officers commanded black units.
23) Martin Luther King, Jr.: Iconic leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King was a brilliant writer and inspirational speaker. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39.
24) De Facto?: - Latin term meaning “in reality.” Regardless of the law, the practice of racial discrimination toward African-Americans was accepted social custom throughout America, north and south.
25) Slave Castles: Castle-like fortresses, built on the Gold Coast, first to store and protect European trade goods such as gold and mahogany, but later used to hold thousands of slaves, bound for transport to the new world.
26) Plantations: Large and luxurious sugar, cotton, or tobacco farms, especially in the deep South, they came to symbolize the brutality and inhumanity of slavery.
27) 13th Amendment: Passed seven months after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, this amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
28) 54th Massachusetts: An African-American volunteer U.S. Army Infantry unit composed of free men, the “54th” was one of the first of such units in the Civil War. It was widely acclaimed for valor, spearheading the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
29) 14th Amendment: This amendment provides a definition of being a citizen of the United States. It provides that all states will provide equal protection to everyone within their jurisdiction. It provides due process under the law and equally provides all constitutional rights to all citizens of this country, regardless of race, sex, religious beliefs and creed.
30) Plessy v. Ferguson: Significant Supreme Court decision in 1896 stating total separation and segregation of the races was legal as long as the races are treated

equally -- “separate but equal.”


31) Industrial Jobs: Industry was booming in the north in the early 1900s, but African-Americans were given the lowest, often most dangerous, jobs in the factories. Even so, the steady wages that were much better than southern incomes created self-sufficiency, pride and upward mobility.
32) New Middle Class: In spite of discrimination, a small but significant African-American middle class arose after World War II, along with a smaller very well educated professional class of doctors, lawyers, and educators. These African-American neighborhoods reflected upward mobility.
33) Jazz: The music that dominated the energy of the swinging 1920s, Jazz was born in the Harlem Renaissance and was transmitted nationally by the new media of phonograph recordings and radio. Black musicians such as Louis Armstrong reached heightened status and economic power.
34) Tuskegee Airmen: First and most famous African-American fighter airplane unit in the World War II, the “Red Tails” (their P-51 Mustangs sported distinctive red tail stabilizers) were discriminated against at every phase of their training, but triumphed with an outstanding service record in Europe, especially escorting bomber formations over Germany and winning great respect and many decorations within the Army Air Corp.
35) Malcolm X: Fiery speaker for African-American equality through Black Nationalism, the one-time spokesman for the controversial Nation of Islam publicly broke with the black separatist organization, and was assassinated less than a year later on February 21, 1965 at age 39.
36) Affirmative Action: A set of governmental regulations and time tables put in place in the Presidential Administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to accelerate the full and equal participation of historically discriminated against minorities in all aspects of American education, employment, and housing. Affirmative action became controversial as it was perceived by many as “reverse discrimination.”
37) 15 of 50 Million: Though the total numbers are difficult to calculate, about one third of the slaves departing Africa for the New World died during the “middle passage” across the Atlantic Ocean.
38) “Peculiar Institution”: White southerners disdained to use the word “slavery” in conversation or legislative debate, preferring to refer to the practice as “our peculiar institution.”
39) Keep the British Out: Needing the raw material of cotton for their mills, the Britain considered throwing its support to the Confederacy. But the British people opposed slavery. When Lincoln emancipated all slaves in rebelling states, any official British support for the South would imply supporting the reestablishment of slavery, a position unacceptable to the British people.
40) Liberation?: Though the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment implied African- American liberation from legal servitude, liberation from an unjust and racially oppressive American social and economic system would not come for another century.
41) Sharecropping: A form of tenant farming instituted by plantation owners to reestablish southern agriculture after the Civil War. Sharecropping bound former slaves and poor whites to the owner of the land in a clever and relentless new form of economic servitude.
42) Brown v. Board of Education: Landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 on a Kansas lawsuit that reversed in public education by a 9-0 ruling the “separate but equal” doctrine. The decision led to the ending of segregation.
43) Cultural Diffusion: In the new black neighborhoods in the north, African-Americans from different parts of the country and varying social classes, skills, and abilities, met, shared ideas and grew in sophistication. Blacks also interacted with other ethnic groups, often with friction, but always gaining knowledge. Northern white culture was also greatly influenced by black culture.
44) Red Lining: A common practice after World War II in which banks and insurance companies literally drew red lines on city maps around predominantly African-American residential neighborhoods. Within those areas, loans, mortgages, and business insurance would not be issued, thereby limiting greatly the economic opportunities of red lined residents.
45) “New Negro”: A major literary movement within the Harlem Renaissance that challenged white stereotypes. It promoted a critical look at racism and championed progressive philosophies including racial integration.
46) Army Integration: President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948 by executive (Presidential) order.
47) Civil Rights Act: Landmark Civil Rights legislation passed in 1964 that outlawed racial discrimination in employment, education, and public places. The legislation was written in such a way that it specifically covered actions by state law. It ratified legislatively the Supreme Court decision in 1954 outlawing “separate but equal.”
48) Barack Obama: The 44th President of the United States: African-American.

Songwriters: KJ Denert and Lance Fialkoff; Guitar and Vocals: KJ Denert; Bass: Robert Bard; Drums: Eric Palmer. Recorded and Engineered at Skytop Studio, New Paltz, NY. Lyrical Footnotes by Michael G. Lockett ©2010, Musical Media for Education (MME) www.mm-ed.com





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