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History of Black Civil Rights in America

The history of black civil rights is the story of America"s caste system. It is the story of how for centuries upper-class whites made African Americans into a slave class, easily identifiable because of their dark skin, and then reaped the benefits—sometimes using law, sometimes using religion, sometimes using violence to keep this system in place.

Activists have made incredible progress over the past 150 years, but institutional racism is still one of the strongest social forces in America today. If you"d like to help do away with it, here are some organizations to look into:

By the time European explorers began to colonize the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries, African slavery had already been accepted as a fact of life. Until the 19th century, white European law and culture was built on the idea that when you see a dark-skinned person, her or his primary purpose is to be a subservient laborer. Mainstream American and European society has only slowly moved away from this dynamic, and as a result we all still live under a disproportionately race-based system of social stratification.

When a Moroccan slave named Estevanico arrived in Florida as part of a group of Spanish explorers in 1528, he became both the first known African American and the first American Muslim. Estevanico functioned as a guide and translator, and his unique skills gave him a social status that very few slaves ever had the opportunity to attain.

The conquistadors relied on both enslaved American Indians and imported African slaves to labor in their mines and on their plantations throughout the Americas. Unlike Estevanico, these slaves generally labored in anonymity, often under extremely harsh conditions.

In Great Britain, poor whites who could not afford to pay their debts were swept up into a system of indentured servitude that resembled slavery in most respects. Sometimes the servants could purchase their own freedom by working off their debts, sometimes not, but in either case they were the property of their masters until their

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