top of page

Debunking Historical Black Myths

Writer: Itumeleng Sibiya

Editor: Renata Daou , Mikada Green

Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta

Black history embodies the identity of black people and allows others to learn more about them. This education leads to common understanding, unity, and harmony among ethnic groups. But like all histories, here are myths and misapprehensions encompassing black history and culture. These myths run rampant in daily discourse and find their way into the historical narrative. They can have serious repercussions, so it is vital to learn where these harmful mistaken ideas arise from and how to stop perpetuating them.

Undeniably, education in the confinement of schools proceeds to center on the white experience, shrinking the history of black people to a short section about slavery and quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. This leads to a severe lack of understanding of black history and perspective of black people in America.

Now, let's take a deep dive into these common historical myths and partial truths.

Myth 1:The only enslaved ethnic group was African Americans.

Many Native Americans were also enslaved, particularly in South America in the American colonies in 1730. Nearly 25 percent of the enslaved people in the Carolinas were Cherokee, Creek, or belonged to other Native American tribes. From the 1500s to the early 1700s, a relatively small number of white people were also enslaved by abduction or for crimes or debts.

Myth 2: That black people didn't fight back or didn't resist slavery (or couldn't)

Heavy historical evidence suggests that enslaved black people resisted or developed a culture of continual resistance. Their resistance came in the form of running away, committing suicide, and fighting back, leading them to die. Some even organized several slave rebellions. For example, in Surinam, Brazil, and Jamaica, enslaved people resorted to fleeing to the mountains and established independent free communities. In Haiti, black people prompted an end to slavery by defeating the Spanish and the French armies. Moreover, the resistance and agitation of Black people like Frederick Douglass stirred the civil war in the right direction, which ultimately ended slavery in the United States.

Myth 3: Slavery caused an erasure of African culture in African American's modern culture and disconnected them from it altogether.

Even though traditional African culture was stripped from enslaved people who were taught that their customs were inferior and barbaric, some still managed to persist and evolve in America with their descendants. African culture not only continues to add a blend of flavor to African American culture but also influences all Americans through black music, dance, food, and other aspects of culture. All of these cultural aspects have deep roots that descend from Africa. African instruments and musical ideas revolutionized American music. African spices, foods (such as yams and okra), design motifs, and skills (such as boat building) permanently influenced European tastes and technologies.

Myth 4: The Civil Rights Movement, an example of a " spontaneous " uprising that freed distressed people.

As it began in 1954, the Civil Rights Movement didn't just "spontaneously" arise with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Before that, black people have been trying to make their voices heard. From relentlessly circulating petitions, bringing court cases, and organising and persisting in agitating against slavery and oppression since before the American Revolution. Yet the crushing weight of a hostile criminal justice system and the rigidity of the colour line often muted those petitions and efforts. Efforts against segregation began in the 1880s but did not make much of an impact until the late 1930s.

Myth 5: That Black revolutionary soldiers were zealous Patriots.

Black revolutionary soldiers are often referred to as Black Patriots. However, the term "Patriot" is reserved within the context of revolutionary discourse to refer to the men of the 13 colonies who strongly believed in the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence: that America should be an independent country free from Britain. These figures were set out and ready to join the Continental Army and fight for this cause. Their sacrificial efforts were considered Patriotic, thus gaining the title of a "Patriot." But that makes the term "Black Patriot '' a total myth—it infers that Black and white revolutionary soldiers fought for the same reasons.

According to Vox, "first off, Black revolutionary soldiers did not fight out of ‘love’ for a country that enslaved and oppressed them. Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting for freedom—not for America, but themselves and the race as a whole." The notion of the Black Patriot is a misused term. In many ways, while most whites were fighting in the American Revolution, Black revolutionary soldiers were fighting the African Americans' Revolution.

In conclusion, understanding Black history is more than learning about the brutality and oppression Black people have endured—it's about how they have fought to survive and thrive in America. In addition, to avoid these unnecessary myths and misconceptions, stories of Black people need to be told through the lens of black people themselves, narrated by them.




Submit an article!

Share your story, share your voice
bottom of page