A Nation of Narrow Vision
An analysis of the evolution of the African-American culture according to Ira Berlin’s article, `Time, Space, and the Evolution of African-American Society`.
The essay demonstrates how Ira Berlin’s article presents the evolution of African-American culture in a new light. Before WWII, most texts about American slavery portray the African-American as the happy and contented slave at ease in his plantation surroundings. While studies done in the past three decades realize this as a misconception, many studies cite the institution of slavery itself as the common developmental denominator shared by members of African-American society. The essay explains that, unlike other studies which group all members of African-American society together, Ira Berlin divides the black society of colonial America into three separate and distinct cultures, and presents the theory that the class distinction that evolved within the black society stemmed as much from the factors of economy, cultural diversity and geography as they did from the confinements of slavery.
“Given the wild winds of economic, political and societal change that swept across the nation during the last half of the twentieth century, the year 1977 appears to have passed through the annals of American history somewhat uneventfully. The roar of the sixties’ riots and the violence of the Vietnam Era had taken their toll, and with the Watergate Scandal barely three years past, a still shell-shocked America of ’77 quietly mourned the passing of Presley and placed their political faith in a farmer from Georgia. In retrospect, 1977 appears to have been quite an unmemorable year in American society and culture, an unremarkable moment in time that passed passively into the past along with Pong, PacMan and platform shoes. In reality, however, the year 1977 marked a milestone in the nation’s culture, for it was during this year that both modern American and modern African-American society turned on its collective television set and found itself face to face with its collective past. For six consecutive nights in 1977, an enamored nation watched as Africa gave birth to Kunta Kinte, America gave birth to slavery, and Alex Haley’s Roots exposed the harsh beginnings of the African-American culture. It touched nerves, but it also touched hearts, opened eyes and widened perspectives.”