In observance of the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in North America in 1619, the Bexley Minority Parents Alliance presented a Dec. 11 lecture featuring Ohio State University professor Hasan Jeffries at the Bexley Public Library, 2411 E. Main St.

"We thought this was a perfect time to talk about the history of African Americans in the country," Bryan Drewry, president of the alliance, said. "His presentation breaks down that information and provides the details that resonate with the community."

Jeffries is an associate professor in Ohio State's department of history, focusing on African and African American studies.

He holds a doctorate in American history from Duke University and is the author of "Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in America's Black Belt" (New York University Press, 2009).

The book chornicles how college-age organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ushered in the Black Power era in Lowndes County, Alabama, one of the most segregated regions of the country.

In his library presentation, Jeffries traced the history of slavery in the nation's original 13 colonies and discussed the civil-rights struggles since the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in the United States, up to the present day.

"If we don't understand that after slavery, you do not have full equality, then nothing that comes after makes sense," Jeffries said. "Then it's about, 'Why can't black people get ahead? Slavery is over,' not realizing all the new laws and systems that are in place."

Jeffries gave an overview of postslavery Jim Crow laws that instituted segregation in southern states and led to discriminatory practices in employment, housing and education in northern states. He also spoke about the civil rights and Black Power movements from 1954 to 1980.

Although Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized universally as a civil-rights leader, his message sometimes is lost in what has come to be known as "colorblindness," Jeffries said.

"Race has no biological meaning, but it's also culturally meaningful," Jeffries said. "You want to recognize people's cultural heritage, but you don't discriminate against them for it."

The nation has made many strides since the civil-rights movement, including the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, Jeffries said, but struggles for equality continue.

"Some people say, looking back at this 400 years of history, this is just typical American history -- you go one step forward, two steps back. No, it's not quite that," Jeffries said. "History isn't about repeating what's come in the past; it's building on what has come in the past."

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