In 1526, the very first Africans arrived in North America as slaves of the San Miguel de Guadalupe colony. They promptly revolted and took refuge with the local indigenous people, becoming the first permanent non-native inhabitants of what would become the United States. Since that time, African-American resistance has taken a variety of forms as their challenges shifted from slavery to lynching, segregation, inequality, discrimination, profiling, mass-incarceration, police violence, and others.
During the slavery era, common forms of resistance included slave revolts, sabotage, and escape to free states, other countries, or independent communities (maroons). Some captives chose to commit suicide rather than submit to slavery. Perhaps the most day-to-day form of slave resistance was slowing the pace of their work. This contributed to the perception that black people are lazy and docile. If nothing else, this map debunks that racist stereotype. The African-American fight for justice has, for centuries, been as constant as it is widespread, showing that they are anything but a submissive people.
After the abolition of slavery, free black communities began to organize for self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan and lynching mobs. The early 20th century saw the first public demonstrations for civil rights after a wave of lynching violence against black communities. During the Civil Rights Movement, many nonviolent tactics like sit-ins, boycotts, strikes, occupations, and civil disobedience were developed. This era also saw the rise of more militant factions and rising discontent led to occasionally violent uprisings. Today, a new wave of civil rights has been ushered in by movements like Black Lives Matter. Activists employ the whole toolkit from symbolic actions like kneeling during the national anthem to direct actions like removing the confederate flag from the South Carolina State House and pulling down the Confederate Soldiers Monument in Durham.
May we take inspiration from the past and honor those who fought. Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream, may we all keep up the fight.
The places and events documented on this map are by no means an exhaustive list of all black resistance movements. Leave us a comment letting us know about the black resistance milestones you would include.
The background of the map depicts the percent black population from the 2010 census.
500 Years of Black Resistance map by Jordan Engel can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.