Beyond Black and White: African Americans and Native Americans in the Age of Jim Crow

Friday, January 3, 2014: 3:30 PM
Columbia Hall 5 (Washington Hilton)
Arica L. Coleman, University of Delaware
The struggle against racial oppression in the Jim Crow South is overwhelmingly viewed within a black/white racial binary which excludes a discussion of the social phenomenon of African Americans and American Indians who as nonwhite (i.e. colored people) were both subjected to the racial dictatorship of the south.  American Indians were the original occupants of the land area now known as the American South; however, notions that American Indians in the southern region were extinct by the end of the colonial era or that those who remained were forced out west as a result of Andrew Jackson’s removal policy remains a pervasive myth in U.S. society.  This presentation will challenge this myth by focusing on the effect of the politics of racial identity and Jim Crow laws on African American and American Indian relations.  During the Jim Crow era American Indians struggled to maintain a separate identity as southern aborigines.  While some tribal communities chose to mimic the segregation policies of the south by denying African American familial ties and refusing to attend black schools and churches, others rejected the notion that anti-black racism was a prerequisite to maintaining American Indian identity. “Beyond Black and White” will highlight the ways in which African Americans and Native Americans have struggled to maintain their own communities as independent, self-defining peoples.  It will also highlight the complex realities of intermarriage, conflict and shared histories that simultaneously helped to foster animosities as well as alliances between the two groups.
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