History of Racism

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The American population that has identified as only Black or African American in the United States and District of Columbia has been slowly increasing over the years. Just recently, the population has grown to nearly 47 billion people of color in America (Chappell). The history of blacks in America goes back hundreds of years to the colonies, through Civil Rights Movements, and continues to be made today with more recent movements. According to data from the US Census Bureau, in 2010 much of the black population was focused in the southeast, while the northeast and Midwest areas also have a significant number of the black population.

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The top eight states that have the highest population percentage includes in order Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Delaware. The percentage range for this group is 15.6 points. However, if the District of Columbia is counted, it has the highest population percentage at 50.7%, and would spike the range for the top 8 group to 29.3 points. The state with the highest percentage is Mississippi with 37%, and at the low end of the top 8 is Delaware, with 21.4%. These states and D.C. are all southern states, focused in the east, most of them below the Mason-Dixon line. The group of the states with the lowest percentage of black population is more spread out geographically, with states being in the west, Midwest, and northeast. This group of states includes Oregon, Hawaii, South Dakota, North Dakota, Maine, Utah, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This data group includes 11 states, with a range of 1.4 percentage points. The states with the lowest black population is Montana, at .4%, and at the high end of the group is Oregon, at 1.8%. The total range of data, including the District of Columbia, is 50.3%. However, if the District of Columbia is dropped, the range of data becomes smaller, at 36.6%.

The attached map represents the breakdown of the black population, by percent, by state. There are five different groups the data was sorted by. The range of each group is, in order from most to least dense, 0 points (1 item), 15.6 points (8 items), 7.8 points (11 items), 5.6 points (12 items), 2.4 points (8 items), and 1.4 points (11 items). A few things should be noted concerning the data groups. The first group has a range of 0 because it has only one item in it, which is the District of Columbia. D.C. received its own category because it was the highest data point (50.7%), but not numerically close to the other data group. The range for group 2 is nearly double for that of the other groups, showing that among only 8 states, there is large changes in population percentages. Also, groups 1 and 2 were the only groups that were focused in one geographic area- the southeast.

The reason why the map looks why it does today is greatly in part of the history behind the black population in American. Before the Civil War, the gold rush in 1848 drew a lot of Americans, including the black population, out west to Nevada and California in search of gold (African Americans in Gold). Much of the black population out West that weren’t searching for gold found themselves being successful using their skills in cooking, as a barber, laundry service and other jobs (African Americans in Gold). However, the southern states hold much of the history of the black population. Slavery was rampant among the southern colonies under British rule hundreds of years ago. As we know, most of the slaves used by the colonies were of African American descent, as they were part of the transatlantic slave trade, and generally were used to farm for their slaveowners. The southern colonies, and the south in general during the Civil War, was known for slavery because of the climate. Much of the crops grown in the south needed the hot, and humid environment of the south to thrive. Today, when looking at the map, the south is still home to much of the black population. A reason the black population might be denser in the south is that, after the Civil War, their ancestors may have stayed to work on the farms because it was the only thing there were taught to do and could afford. Many would continue stay and make a living by being a sharecropper (Benton-Short).

However, an anomaly found in the South by looking at the map is that West Virginia has a very small percentage of black people, even though it is surrounded by states dense in black population. Just like the rest of the country, Virginia found itself split over slavery, and split into Virginia and West Virginia. West Virginia however, had a mountainous region, better suited for coal mining than farming. Although slaves were used for coal mining, many began to believe that slavery was hurting the economy of West Virginia, taking away jobs and pushing away immigrants (African Americans in West). Blacks living in West Virginia found employment in coal mines, but soon that source of income was devasted because of WWI, and the Great Depression (African Americans in West). Since African American citizens didn’t have a job, many left the state, and the number of black coal miners fell from 20,000 in 1930 to 1,500 in 1980 (African Americans in West).

By 1910, the North was experiencing an influx of the south’s black population, which became known as the Great Migration (Benton-Short). The black population followed “regional rail lines and roads” which led to cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and New York (Benton-Short). Many were leaving the south because there was no profit on the cotton they grew, and harsh segregation through the Jim Crow laws (Benton-Short). Many blacks left for jobs in industry up North (Benton-Short). For example, In Illinois, Henry Ford created the assembly line, causing some of the black population to settle there for jobs. When the Civil rights movement succeeded, and segregation was lifted, some blacks moved back into the South to escape the racism in the North (Benton-Short). Because of the Great Migration, many of the northern states on the map such as Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois and other industrial cities have a high percentage of black population, who were looking for jobs.

The Midwestern states might not have had a strong population because of the Northwest Ordinance, and segregation laws. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 would have restricted slavery in those territories west of the Ohio river (Gorsuch). Racism in the Midwest led white citizens to believe that escaped slaves and freedmen would become thieves, so they enacted laws against blacks in the territories, and created low paying jobs menial jobs, and inaccessible industry jobs (Gorsuch).

The culture and history of the black population of American is affected greatly by the geography of the land, and what important events happened there. Whether it was slavery, or job opportunities, the population according to the map shows the rich history and culture that black Americans have developed over the years. 

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History Of Racism. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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