A stereotype is a commonly held, simplified generalization. Stereotypes are often applied to perceived groups or races of people by others and can often be held unconsciously.
Throughout US history, African Americans and African American culture have been the subject of many stereotypes, particularly once race became the determining factor in the institution of slavery. While African-American stereotypes have changed over time, many of them originate in white slave owners' perceptions of their slaves. Some early stereotypes include the notions that African Americans are lazy, joyful, ignorant, superstitious, musical, and either bestial or spiritual or both. These stereotyped characteristics were often grouped together in predictable structures known as archetypes. Some of the most common archetypes dating from slave times include 'Black-face,' 'Sambo,' 'Mammy,' 'The Tom,' 'The Coon,' and 'The Buck,' to name a few. Stereotyping is by no means a problem of the past. Modern stereotypes include perceptions of African-Americans as 'deviant' or 'radical,' 'drug lords,' 'welfare queens,' the 'angry black woman,' and the 'independent black woman.' Though considered modern formulations, all of these stereotypes can usually be traced back to those of slavery-era America.
No matter what the specifics of any stereotype, it's important to recognize that stereotypes do persist in American culture and society and that they continue to have negative effects on both their targets and those who hold them. Recognizing the stereotypes that we hold for any group is an important first step in working to see individuals and cultural identities for who and what they really are, and not what we've been programmed to believe them to be.