Naiya Washington
Ms. Jensen
English II
15 May 2017

Stereotypes Throughout African American History
The use of stereotypes is a major way in which we simplify our social world; since they reduce the amount of processing that our brains have to do we when we meet a new person. By stereotyping, we infer that a person has a whole range of characteristics and abilities that we assume all members of that group have. Stereotypes lead to social categorization , which is one of the reasons for prejudice attitudes. Most stereotypes probably tend to convey a negative impression. Researchers have found that stereotypes exist of different races, cultures or ethnic groups. Although the terms race, culture and ethnic groups have different meanings, we all have a different way of looking at each other. People hold negative stereotypes as a way to eliminate the challenge of understanding people who are different from themselves. When people do not agree with, or like the way another culture behaves because it is different, it is perceived as wrong, and results in negative stereotyping. Racial stereotypes develop in a variety of ways, and it is human nature to categorize people . It is a way of making the complex world easier to understand. Also, the less exposure and contact that one has with a particular group, the more likely that they will develop negative feelings about that group. Any negative experiences that one has with a particular race; it will reinforce their negative racial stereotypes that coincide with that group. Once these fears and negative connotations are developed, it creates an "us versus them" mentality, which can even develop into defense mechanism (Kaufman). The racial stereotypes of early American history had a significant role in shaping attitudes toward African-Americans during that time. Images of the Sambo, and the Savage may not be as powerful today, yet they are still alive.
One of the most enduring stereotypes in American history is that of the Sambo. This image of a simple-minded, docile black man dates back at least as far as the colonization of America. The Sambo stereotype flourished during the era of slavery in the United States. White slave owners molded African-American males, as a whole, into this image of a jolly, overgrown child who was glad and willing to serve his master. However, the Sambo was seen as naturally lazy and therefore reliant upon his master for instruction. However, it was not only slave owners who adopted the Sambo stereotype, it was transmitted through music, literature, children's stories and games, etc. White women, men and children across the country embraced the image of the fat, wide-eyed, happy black man. It was perpetuated over and over, shaping enduring attitudes toward African-Americans for centuries.
Movies were, and still are, a powerful medium for the transmission of stereotypes. The premiere of "Birth of a Nation" during the reconstruction period in 1915 marked the change in emphasis from the happy Sambo to that of the Savage. Acts of racial violence were justified and encouraged through the emphasis on this stereotype of the Savage. The urgent message to whites was, "we must put blacks in their place or else." Theodore Roosevelt publicly stated that "As a race and in the mass [the Negroes] are altogether inferior to whites". This idea of African-Americans as apelike savages was very common. For example, in 1906, the New York Zoological Park featured an exhibit with an African-American man and a chimpanzee. Several years later, the Ringling Brothers Circus exhibited "the monkey man," a black man was caged with a female chimpanzee that had been trained to wash clothes and hang them on a line. These stereotypes of the animal-like savage were used to rationalize the harsh treatment of slaves during slavery as well as the murder, torture and oppression of African-Americans during the years after emancipation. However, it can be argued that this stereotype still exists today.
Although much has changed since the days of Sambo and the Savage, it can be argued convincingly that similar stereotypes of African-Americans exist. However, the predominant modern stereotypes are the violent, brutish African-American male and the dominant, lazy African-American female - the Welfare Mother. Recent research has shown that