African-American legacies in art, economics, and politics

February is Black History Month, during which we reiterate the importance of achievements, contributions, and legacies of African-Americans throughout history.

Wikipedia strives to be the sum of all human knowledge. While it’s an incredible source of information (and one that millions look to every day!), it can always be improved, especially when it comes to representing histories of historically marginalized populations. A Wikipedia assignment presents students with an opportunity to better represent diverse voices and perspectives in history by contributing to the world’s most popular online encyclopedia.

This week, we’re looking to students in Kyra Gaunt’s Black Popular Culture course at Hunter College. These students improved articles on a variety of topics last spring, which have now been viewed more than 18 million times. These are just a few of the topics they engaged:

Afrofuturism is a philosophical and artistic movement that explores present-day dilemmas that black people face and envisions a different future. Afrofuturism as an aesthetic explores diasporic identities through a variety of media and lenses, including science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and technoculture. The term was coined in the early 1990s, but scholars point towards Afrofuturistic music, art, and texts decades before. Invisible Man, the 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison, is a pivotal work at the start of Afrofuturist literature. Afrofuturism critiques the current futures facing black people and people affected by the African diaspora and imagines new possibilities.

The Wikipedia article about African-American businesses details the history of entrepreneurship and business ownership by African-Americans beginning in 1865 until present day. One student focused on improving information about the period of 1865–1900. This was the era of Reconstruction, which presented new opportunities for small business development in urban areas. Black communities were at a disadvantage during this time of economic growth due to racial segregation and other legacies of slavery. Residential segregation limited social, educational, and economic opportunities. Even so, the late 19th century saw a rise in black entrepreneurship and black owned businesses. Black business owners tapped into markets of black consumers that had been previously disregarded.

Another student improved the article about Black nationalism. Black nationalism seeks to empower black people socially, politically, and economically. Black nationalism proposes that black people are a nation that must maintain a distinct identity and resist assimilation into white American culture. There are three main periods of Black nationalism: Pre-Classical, post-Revolutionary War, and post-Reconstruction. Important historical figures associated with Black nationalism include Malcolm XElijah (Poole) Muhammad, and Marcus Garvey.

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Image: File:Two young women hold signs at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade in San Francisco, January 2018.jpgJami430, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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