Redrafting African American History through Social Media

For my multimedia project, I intend to research the effects of digital technology, particularly social media, on the perception of African American history today. Unfortunately, many of the textbooks used in high schools across the United States today have a tendency to whitewash the role of blacks in the country. The worst offenders are often privatized Christian schools in southern states. In Louisiana, for instance, some charter schools rely on Bob Jones University Press textbooks to teach the history of racial politics. Students are taught the following information:

“…few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common…the majority of slave holders treated their slaves well.”

 “[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”

Despite the inherent injustice associated with teaching such information, the worst offense to African American history pertains to the individuals who were never included in the historical narrative of this country to begin with. Certainly, the vast majority of the population is well aware of the horrors associated with slavery, as well as the KKK, and would publicly condemn anyone who said otherwise:

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Yet when information is censored at the source, the masses are often powerless in policing accurate historicism. As a result, certain figures are never honored for their actions—enabling those who were formerly in power to dictate how historical events are told in the present day. This form of whitewashing, then, has a far greater potential for disempowering minorities, such as African Americans. Today most well educated people would argue, for instance, that Abraham Lincoln, and his mostly white Union Army, was largely responsible for abolishing slavery in the United States. In reality, however, blacks living along the Eastern seaboard participated in a series of Gullah Wars for more than a century:

One such Gullah War occurred in Florida during the 1830’s and was led by an extraordinary group of black men named Abraham, John Caesar, and John Horse. Yet rather than acknowledge the true nature of the event, the conflict was termed the Second Seminole War. Most newspapers from that time attempted to portray the conflict as an Indian war due a very rational fear of inspiring widespread, regional slave unrest. In addition, by minimizing the participation of plantation slaves, and instead claiming that Indians kidnapped runaways, white plantation owners could seek restitution from the U.S. government for war damages. The war ultimately involved more than three hundred slaves and nearly a thousand Black-Indians.

The deliberate altering of historical developments is a reprehensible action that separates African Americans from their people’s legacies and achievements. Social media, however, is beginning to change that trend. Applications like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are being utilized as a means to communicate high quantities of information to the masses. Given that African Americans are highly represented on these social media applications, the strategy has great potential to enact change. Online community forums, though less popular, are also striving to accomplish the same goal.

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The purpose of my project is to determine the effectiveness of social media in disseminating crucial pieces of African American history. As far as I know, the topic of my research has not been studied directly. In order to determine the audience penetration of such social media accounts, I intend to organize a series of surveys on campus through student groups. I intend to collect data on whether or not students have utilized social media as a medium for learning about their own heritage in the past. I will also investigate which sites students would be more inclined to utilize if they were to try it. The surveys will collect information over a span of three weeks in order to ensure maximum coverage. Lastly, the format of my project will more than likely be presented as a PowerPoint presentation. I do not foresee issues related to ethnicity or etiquette arising during the study.

Works Cited

“Blackhistory.” Instagram. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://instagram.com/blackhistory

 “Black History: John Horse And The Black Seminoles.” YouTube. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TT2TthezYU

Brock, Andre. “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media: 529-49. Print.

“Crushing White Supremacy (Part 3: The Gullah Wars).” YouTube. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoNTDABXBxU

Ho, Pauline. “Twitter Post.” Twitter. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. https://twitter.com/paulineptho/status/523667354207932416

“Largest Slave Rebellion.” Cocoa Lounge. 13 May 2013. Web. http://www.cocoalounge.org/viewthread.php?tid=61299&page=2

Potter, Woodburne. The War in Florida. 1836. Reprint, Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1966.

United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1996

United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2001

“United States History For Christian Schools.” Amazon. Web. http://www.amazon.com/United-States-History-Christian-Schools/dp/1591664241

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