The Advancements of African-Americans in Education (1980-2009). Causes and Assessment

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2009

37 Pages, Grade: 13/20





Problem Statement

1- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
2-The Higher Education Act of 1965 and Affirmative Action
3- The Higher Education Amendments Act of 1965

1- School Segregation
2-Reagan’s Measures to Foster Educational Segregation

1-Halting Discrimination

1-College Participation Rate Compared to Other Racial Groups and Access to Higher Education.
2-Today’s Black Colleges and Universities



Internet sources


This work is the first and the most complex but beneficial research I ever carried out. So I owe thousands thanks to God our heavenly father.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Dr. Samson AKIEME, my academic supervisor, for the advice and patience he brought to the different stages of this academic achievement. He also taught me the use of Modern Language Association (MLA) writing style, of which I am actually comfortable. In my future academic research papers, possibly at the PhD level, I might use other writing styles such as the American Psychological Association (APA). This will be another way to explore the usage of in-text references.

Besides I would like to thank all the lecturers of the Department of English Studies for their teachings and encouragements.

Lastly special thanks to all the people who have supported me psychologically, materially and financially in the course of this research paper, especially my mother Nzang Angèle.


This topic and the period it covers (1980-2009) have not been chosen at random, insomuch as the same is central in terms of the advancements of African-Americans in these areas: education, cinema, economy and politics. Indeed, the topic will bring to light what has been performed by Blacks. African-Americans’ advancements were made possible thanks to a certain number of measures, for instance the Supreme Court Decision in the Brown v. Board of Education[1] and the Civil Rights Movement[2].

In fact, by addressing this topic we want to find the causes which can explain the current advancements of African-Americans so far, and then make a kind of assessment. We would like to evaluate what have been the advancements of Black Americans with regard to the subject matter we develop in this paper. First and foremost, the term “advancement” and Black America have to be defined. According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary page 30, advancement is a “promotion or elevation to a higher rank or to a position of greater personal dignity or importance. Most African-Americans are the direct descendants of captive Africans who survived the slavery era within the boundaries of the present United States of America.

Considering the field of economy, Blacks have made their way forward there. Let us take the case of business where a survey was made in 1982 by the Census Bureau[3] concerning minority- owned business. We would like to make it clear that African-Americans are counted among minorities in the United States, but these Blacks constitute the most influential minority group in the United States. Harry Ploski and James Williams quote the Census Bureau survey in their book[4]:

“The survey shows that by 1980 the number of Blacks owning businesses amounted to 339.239, up from 231.203 in 1972. The gross figures seemed to be significant (a more than 80% increase in the number of Blacks having their own business between 1972 and 1982), nonetheless the survey demonstrated that in terms of number Blacks owning new businesses in the entire economy, they represented 3% of total business in the United States.”

Later, Blacks will enlarge their economic activity to corporations, banking sector and insurance companies.

With regard to politics, African-Americans have entered the political world thanks to the Civil Rights Movement outcomes. Therefore a number of Blacks have become mayors. Minion K.C Morrison, Professor at Missouri University, in the Department of Political Science since 1989 writes: “some black mayors in the first generation of black leadership include Coleman Young of Detroit, who was elected in 1970, Wilson Goode of Philadelphia and Harold Washington of Chicago. The first black mayor of a major US city was Sharon Dixon Kelly, of Washington, D.C, from 1991 to 1995”[5]. Blacks had had governmental positions such as cabinet officers and agency heads. David Bositis[6]., who is a senior research associate at Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C, a voting rights and redistricting expert contends:

“US cabinet officers have been Robert C.Weaver, form New York, from 1966 to 1968, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Lyndon Johnson; the first black female cabinet member was Patricia Harris, 1977, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Jimmy Carter. And the first black female Secretary of State was Condoleezza Rice in 2005.”

Cinema has been another domain where African-Americans wanted to express themselves powerfully. They encountered a serious discrimination in cinema, a discrimination orchestrated by the movie industry, Hollywood. This discrimination was first observed in the nature of roles Blacks played in Hollywood movies; in effect they were in roles of pimps, prostitutes and domestics, and black men were constantly in roles of policemen. And second and unfortunately, Hollywood decided to limit the number of Blacks in its movies.

Accordingly, there was less and less black presence in American cinema. To remedy the situation they will create their own cinematic genre known as Blaxploitation[7], this genre boosted African-American cinema. Second, the NAACP[8] will protest against the film industry to have more Blacks in films, this will result in a slight change. For example, Eddie Murphy[9] will play a good role in the movie Bervely Hills Cop. Moreover the early 1980s will see the appearance of black filmmakers. Harry Ploski and James Williams[10]. wrote:

“There is a new phenomenon of films by independent filmmakers like Spike Lee[11] with his 1986 Gotta Have It movie and Robert Townsend[12].This showed an encouraging tendency about new comers in African-American cinema having skills and talents as directors, producers and writers.”

In education Blacks will soon realize that if they want to be influential in the American society, they have to embrace to education. But things will not be that easy for these Blacks, insomuch as they will face a serious hostility in claiming for a basic civic right: the right to education.

Indeed, the Reagan Administration will particularly be hostile to African-Americans with regard to fostering affirmative action and integration. The Reagan Administration in what Dr. Kenneth Clark[13] qualified as a “functional repeal of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision” proposed and supported a series of measures that put aside effective means of integration and encouraged families and institutions that wanted to segregate. Among these measures, there were limited enforcement of civil rights laws and radical cuts in federal aids to education programs.

Despite these measures in the early 1980s, Blacks will witness significant advancements in education. In effect, Cassandra Cantave[14] and Roderick Harrison[15] have made a report of black achievement in education; in their report they state that since 1980, 95% of African-American population aged between 5 and 17 were enrolled in school.

The authors went on to contend that by 1980, about one-half of African-American adults (51, 2%) had completed at least high school. The rate rose to nearly two-thirds (66%) of Blacks aged 25 and more by 1990, and to more than three quarters of them (76%) in 1998. Cantave and Harrison concluded that, from that time, 87% of African-Americans aged between 25 and 29 had a high school diploma, compared to about 93% of their white counterparts.

This report demonstrates the growing participation of African-Americans in the field of education, a non-negligible fulfilment.

In the topic we discuss in this paper, the concern remains linked to the issue of race in America, in an environment particularly hostile and harmful to Blacks. Can we assert that the assessment of African-Americans’ advancements in education, cinema, economy and politics has been positive so far? Has it been that easy for these Blacks to make successful achievements in the aforementioned areas?

All these questions need answers and we will address them as our research advances. In this research, as it is our bachelor’s paper, we will only address the field of education, that is, the assessment of black people in education; the other fields – the representation of Black Americans in cinema, economy and politics – will be addressed in our master’s paper.

This work will be improved as we go along with it. However, we do hope it will meet the reader's expectations. Our research is centered into two parts. In the first part – this bachelor’s paper – we will speak about Black Americans’ breakthroughs in education and the reasons for these improvements. In it, we would like to assess their advancements in terms of what they have been performing so far, for example their enrolment in colleges and universities. In the second part, that is, in our master’s paper – that we do not tackle in this paper –, we will make another evaluation about the advancements of African-Americans in cinema, economy and politics. We do admit that it might not be that easy insofar as that part will require us to make a lot of research and to have good documentation in order to discuss our topic about black achievement in these arenas.

Problem Statement

With regard to the problem statement of our topic, we would like to make it clear that the issue of race in America is highly debated in this paper. America is both a multicultural and multiracial nation, among which are African-Americans. First, it is important to note that African-Americans generally lived in a hostile environment vis-à-vis the vast majority of Whites who do not facilitate things for Blacks. Indeed, it seems that Whites were dramatically hostile to Blacks; this had been the case since the abolition of slavery.

The question is: how come that Whites are so harmful to Blacks? As we speak about the advancements of African-Americans in education, cinema, economy and politics, this question points out another question, are Whites afraid of black competition?

From Goliath website[16], we have found that the most evident and sorrowful manifestation of the continuation of segregation is the economic inequality among Blacks and Whites. All the major indications and numerous surveys prove the situation slowly to be improving for African-Americans. Whites and Blacks do not have the same wages. While Whites have an average annual salary of $48,500, African-Americans have an average annual salary of 31,000. In addition, it is the mainstreams economy itself which reinforces the brutal oppression of racism at the economic level. This aspect of research is actually developed in our master’s paper about African-American Representation in the US economy.

Our paper is an evaluation of Blacks’ advancements in the fields above-mentioned. This evaluation will show the reader whether or not the assessment of these advancements are positive or negative. Second, as we point out the environment Blacks live in, it is observable that it is an environment which does not favor their advancement insomuch as the same is a segregated. If we consider the field of education we address in this research paper, we will notice that a number of measures were undertaken in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan to worsen the social situation of minorities, especially African-Americans; the measures included limited enforcement of civil rights laws and radical cuts in federal aid to education programs.

Admitting that the right to education is fundamental and that education costs a lot of investment for the federal government, it is apparent that the cuts in federal aid to education simply meant that low-income families among African-Americans would not be capable to send their children to school. Accordingly the environment wherein Blacks lived seemed not to be favorable at all. Would it be accurate to contend that the same prevented them to succeed? In other words, did Blacks succeed in education, cinema, economy and politics despite American hostile social environment?

It seems in effect that, African-Americans have made successful achievements as regards our discussion. We would like to investigate on why and how they have managed to achieve success; we also want to find out if they have been struggling themselves in the fight for their social advancement, we mean it is possible that they may have used strategies in order to make their community move forward. Our problem is also to know whether the federal government has been active in participating in the social advancement of African-Americans. If that be the case, we wonder what the government has done concretely to help African-Americans achieve success in education.

With regard to the aid of the federal government, can we stipulate that it had been provided on a regular basis? We would like to discover if this aid had been substantial in the process of African-Americans advancements in the American society. Could we assert that it is only the federal government which may have participated in African-Americans’ progress? What about the Supreme Court and Congress? It looks like if there be a success in the Black community, the same is due to outside contribution and participation. Indeed, the Supreme Court and Congress might have played a major role in this process. Congress did it in passing acts that favored minorities’ interests. And the Supreme Court did it in somewhat ruling in favor of minorities in issues with respect to discrimination.

Coming back to African-Americans’ strategies for their advancements, our concern is to find out what had been in fact these strategies and if they did work. In other words, have the strategies been efficient to ensure the educational breakthroughs of Blacks? This question brings about another preoccupation regarding the fulfillment as we speak about the federal government, the Supreme Court and Congress’ implications in the advancements of African-Americans. As regards the fulfillment, if the federal government, Congress and the Supreme Court have been active in the advancement of Blacks in general, the problem is to find out whether or not the fulfillment had been achieved or if it had been modest.

In our work, the basic problem is that although African-Americans have made breakthroughs in education, their socialization in the American society remains questionable because it seems that a lot of things still need to be undertaken in order for this minority to be visible. It appears that the federal government, Congress and the Supreme Court had not done enough to stymie the situation of racism in comparison to black integration. These are the diverse issues our topic raises, and our job is to do our best to address them all along this research paper.


We are going to start our development with the first aspect, in which we address the different measures that the federal government and Congress had undertaken to help minorities have free access to education. Among these minorities we naturally have African-Americans.


[1] The opinion of the Court was that the ‘’ segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect on the colored children. The impact is greater when it has sanction of the law; for the policy of separating race is interpreted as denotating the inferiority of Negro group.

[2] A movement in which Blacks demanded equal rights for black people, especially the right to vote and that of office. A movement whose leader was Martin Luther King, King also focused on economic issues, particularly black poverty, and also he advocated income redistribution.

[3] The United Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other demographic data. It serves as the leading source of quality data about America’s people.

[4] Harry Ploski and James Williams, The Negro Almanac : A Reference Work on the African-American, Detroit : Gale Research Inc.,1989,p.553.

[5] K.C Minion Morrison, African Americans and Political Participation, ABC-CLIO Incorporated ISBN 157607837X. JULY 2003.

[6] David Bositis, Black Elected Officials : A Statistical Summary 2001, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies,2002.

[7] Blaxploitation is a social and cultural ideal in US cinema during the 1970s, which valorized the image of African- Americans by presenting them in good and first class roles and not only in secondary roles. The term is the blending between “black” and “exploitation”. Blaxploitation films were especially dedicated to Blacks and addressed only to the black community dealing with black themes and problems.

[8] The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People abbreviated as NAACP and pronounced N- double A C-P, is one of the oldest and most influential civil rights organizations in America. Its mission is to ensure the political, social and economic equality of rights for all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination.

[9] Eddie Murphy is an Academy Award- nominated American actor, voice actor, film director, producer, comedian and singer. He has received Golden Globe Award nominations for best actor in a comedy or musical for his performances in Bervely Hills Cop.

[10] Harry Ploski and James Williams, The Negro Almanac : A Reference Work on the African-American, Detroit : Gale Research Inc., 1989, p.369-370.

[11] Spike Lee is an African-American film director, producer, writer and actor. He also teaches films at New York and Columbia University.

[12] Robert Townsend is an African-American actor, comedian, film director and actor.

[13] Kenneth Clark was an African-American psychologist. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement ; he argued for high standards in education, continuing to work for children’s benefits. He died in New York in 2005.

[14] Cassandra Cantave is member of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in Washington, D.C. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is a national, nonprofit research and public policy institution. The institution provides training for newly elected black officials; it explores a range of public issues of concerns of Blacks and other communities of colored.

[15] Roderick Harrison is the founding director DataBank, an online clearinghouse of data on Blacks and other ethnic populations. He held a joint appoint in the Afro-American Studies and Sociology Department at Harvard University.

[16] http :

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The Advancements of African-Americans in Education (1980-2009). Causes and Assessment
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Dr. Jean Cédric Obame Emane (Author), 2009, The Advancements of African-Americans in Education (1980-2009). Causes and Assessment, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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