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Black History from the Pages of EBONY: African-Americans in the Obama Era

The African-Americans of the 2000s

The decade that was predicted to begin with the Y2K disaster, the coding bug that would adversely affect every computer in the world, actually began with multiple spectacular global celebrations and not one wrinkle. The attacks of 9/11 the following year would devastate the U.S. and its allies, and give rise to Islamophobia, even as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the iPhone drew the world closer.

African-Americans would solider on, continuing to make strides in politics, entertainment, military and religion. Halle Barry and Denzel Washington would win Best Actress and Best Actor Oscars, respectively. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the U. S. Navy would both promote women to high ranking offices. The Church would have its first woman bishop, the Navy its first Black woman admiral. Shirley Clarke Franklin would become the first African-American woman mayor of a Southern city as big as Atlanta. Condoleezza Rice would become the first female African-American to hold the post of U.S. Secretary of State, and Sen. Barack Hussein Obama of Illinois would ascend to the presidency of the United States of America, subsequently becoming EBONY’s 2009 Person of the Year.

Hurricane Katrina would wipe out the majority-Black city of New Orleans. SCOTUS would send mixed messages about affirmative action, upholding the policy at University of Michigan’s law school, but striking it down in the same university’s undergraduate admission process. In the previous decade, in addition to the horrific dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. by White supremacists, [I do explain Mr. Byrd’s murder in the ‘90’s blurb] the world would learn of the violent, anti-gay murder of Matthew Shepard, in which the teen was pistol-whipped, tied up outside in freezing weather, then set on fire. In honor of both victims, Congress would pass The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, empowering the federal government to prosecute hate crimes motivated by race or sexual orientation.

As it had in previous decades, EBONY addressed of all these matters to and from the African- American point of view. Although the magazine’s covers boasted many new celebrity faces, such as P. Diddy, Ashanti, Lenny Kravitz, Kanye West and a new girl group called Destiny’s Child, its pages called the readers’ attention to fighting racism within and without the Black community; better ways to parent Black children to prepare them to excel in racially hostile climates; and the best practices to adopt for longer, healthier lives. Gospel music and well-known pastors, such as T.D. Jakes, elevated readers’ thinking, even as sexy singles and candid articles about sex and STDs invited more carnal considerations.

EBONY looked back over the lives and legacies of Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King and founder John H. Johnson, and challenged us all to do more and to do better.

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