The African American struggle for cultural and racial equality to date remains one of the most galvanizing and sensitive battles for recognition in history.
The horrific treatment and searing oppression meted out to the African Americans based on nothing but the color of their skin serves as the most heartrending example of the most heinous crimes committed by men against men.
With the passing of the Jim Crow laws across the Southern states in the United States of America, the African American people: men, women and children alike, found themselves being legally transformed into quantifiable objects for abuse and excruciating labor.
To say the least, the Jim Crow laws were a series of unprincipled laws that pronounced it ignoble to be an African American residing in America. Various unfair restrictions were imposed on them.
For example, the Blacks were completely segregated from the Whites. They were forced into slavery. The Blacks were allowed (if at all) much inferior quality of education compared to the Whites. They were abducted in large numbers and exhibited next to chimpanzees at the zoo. How atrocious is that?
After centuries of enduring such torment at the hands of their White oppressors, the African American people realized that it was time for them to claim ownership and to stand up and stand together in their fight to resuscitate the honor of being Black.
Due to disenfranchisement and Jim Crow laws, a huge majority of the Black population migrated to the North, in the hope of a better life. But again, the African American people were faced with antipathy instead of empathy.
The Black migrants were pushed into jobs that offered a measly payment for maximum work. The best of which, still constrained the Blacks into living hand to mouth in slums. Harlem was one such slum in New York. And the seat of the Harlem Renaissance, the fight for the rebirth of the African American identity in America.
With the Harlem Renaissance, the Black people began voicing their agony over abominable hate crimes perpetrated against them.
Writers like Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, were some of the greatest propounders of this movement. Jazz, as a musical genre, branched out of as a protest against White music.
Harlem Renaissance paved a platform for racial discourse in America. But, it also lent an unprecedented amount of confidence to the African American people. This manifested itself in the formation of the Black Panther Party, which was formed in 1966 founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.
The Harlem Renaissance presented before the people of America, the image of the wronged victims hunted by White Supremacy. Whereas, the Black Panther Party shows the evolvement of the hunted into the hunter.
The Black Panthers were feisty and infested with “black pride.” They were valiant and proud of their cultural history and racial identity. They were the generation of people who knew that “black is beautiful,” and they could “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.” They were fearless, undaunted by their tyrannical White oppressors. They were the architects of the aesthetic of “cool.”
The Black people, with their culture, afro hairdo and audacious attitude came to epitomize the idea of being “cool.” It was through them and because of them that the otherwise mundane word, “cool” became cool.
It was because of the African American people that cool became an attitude. Being black, was cool they said and so it was. The battle of the African American people, against racism and slavery gave a new meaning to the word “cool,” adding an entirely different and fresh connotation to it.