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Countdown of 10 Great Moments in African-American History Year 2010 (part 1)
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Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance Now available in eBook format.
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Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The first decade of the 21st century ended in 2009 with concerns expressed worldwide over the state of the economy, and the second decade kicked off the same way in 2010. Historically, whatever challenging conditions have impacted upon Americans in general tends to hit African Americans twice as hard. This new series over the next five installments will count down from 10 to 1 some of most powerful moments of 2010 to shape, define, or impact the African-American experience-and thus the American experience overall as well-in a significant way.   

As with the series last year, the list is likely to include some surprises, especially when it comes to who or what occupies the number one position.

Overview in Miniature

The national unemployment rate is only one example of how conditions in America tend to affect African Americans differently from the general population. Whereas the national unemployment has continued to hover at just below 10 percent throughout 2010, the rate for African Americans at this time has soared well over that figure to reach almost 17 percent.  Likewise, as frequently noted, African Americans make up almost half (some 800,000 plus) of the country's prison population of 2.3 million people while comprising only 12 percent of the nation's population. The numbers on high school drop outs and newly-reported cases of AIDS are equally dour.

As uncomfortable as it may be for many to acknowledge, the social and economic disparities that exist in the lives of many African Americans can be traced to racial factors and that observation does not represent an excuse but a reality. Nevertheless, struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds has been a hallmark of African-American existence since the days of slavery. Despite these odds and ongoing adverse conditions, African Americans have continued to contribute substantially to the culture, strength, and preservation of the United States as a whole. Likewise, as a group and as individuals, they have also continued to engage the challenges before them, break new ground, and often lead the way on the road from painful devastation to inspired recovery.

NEXT: The countdown begins with the dynamic couple at number 10

by Aberjhani