African Americans: Free at Last? Equal at Last?


Civil War (1861-1865) and Reconstruction Period (1865-1877)


Civil Rights Movement

Black Power Movement

African Americans today

A lesson before dying by Ernest j Gaines

“A lesson before dying”, set in the 1940s, thematizes injustice against African Americans in the American South. The narrator Grant Wiggins (a teacher at a plantation school) is obliged by his relatives to restore the dignity of the wrongfully to death sentenced Jefferson. In spite of the adverse circumstances, Grant is able to persuade Jefferson of his dignity and becomes friend with Paul a white deputy.

The Butler

The movie “The Butler” narrates the story of Cecil Gaines, who grows up on a plantation, experiences the murder of his father by the white owner of the plantation but eventually becomes a butler in the white house. Through Cecil´s and his family´s story the film depicts the development of the situation for blacks in the US. Cecil´s oldest son Louis for instance takes part in the civil rights movement creating tension in the family.

Vocabulary & phrases

Additional knowledge


Lynching is the informal public execution by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group. Lynchings took place in the United States both before and after the American Civil War, most commonly in Southern states and most frequently in the late 19th century. Most lynchings were on African-American men in the South. Poems of the time like “Strange fruit” by Lewis Allan try to capture the savageness and cruelty of lynching.


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