Repression, Uprisings, and Rebellion: The History of Black People
This is the full series on the history of black people in the United States that I wrote for AHTribune.com.
This series examining the history of black people in the United States isn’t one in which the usual writings focusing on slavery, the civil rights movement, and the present state of black America. Rather, it will put a lens on subject matter that is often unknown and rarely talked about, from how the North benefitted from slavery to the creation of the ghetto to alleged government involvement with the transportation of drugs into the black community. While the story of black people in the US is viewed generally as one of struggle, however it is also one of rebellions and uprisings against unjust conditions. In many ways, it is a story of resistance and hope against seemingly indomitable odds.
Slavery, generally viewed as a purely racist institution, was at its core about economics. The need for free labor was quite great in colonial America and “when it became clear that freemen would not come and work for hire, a demand developed for servile labor.” This labor first came in the form of indentured servants and English criminals who were sent to the colonies and used for labor as part of their punishment. However, Africans were eventually settled upon as “the planters learned at length that the negroes could be employed to very good advantage in the plantation system; and after about 1680 the import of slaves grew steadily larger.”
Slavery grew due to economic considerations as “wherever the immediate profits from slave labor were found to be large, the number of slaves tended to increase, not only through the birth of children, but by importations” and due to the large amounts of capital invested in the slave system, it could maintain itself in times of extreme economic hardship, even going so far as to continue while running at a slight loss. Many times, the price of Africans was “so low that, when crops and prices were good, the labor of those imported repaid their original cost in a few years[.]”
Yet, while Southerners were making money from the slave trade, the North was also gaining wealth from slaves, but in a different manner.
During the 1830s, slave owners in the South wanted to import capital as to purchase more slaves and they came up with a new idea: “[mortgage] slaves; and then [turn] the mortgages into bonds that could be marketed all over the world.” To this end, they organized new banks, drew up lists of slaves to be used as collateral, and used those banks to sell bonds to investors from as far away as London, Amsterdam, and Paris. Planters, via their mortgage payments, paid the principle and interest on these bond payments, effectively ‘securitizing’ black bodies. Most interestingly, a rather well-known financial company gained its start due to this:
Older slave states such as Maryland and Virginia sold slaves to the new cotton states, at securitization-inflated prices, resulting in slave asset bubble. Cotton factor firms like the now-defunct Lehman Brothers — founded in Alabama — became wildly successful. Lehman moved to Wall Street, and for all these firms, every transaction in slave earned money flowing in and out of the U.S. earned Wall Street firms a fee.
Yet money wasn’t just made solely off of slaves, the North also helped to fund slavery itself. Nicholas Biddle, head of the United States Bank of Philadelphia, “funded banks in Mississippi to promote the expansion of plantation lands” as he “recognized that slave-grown cotton was the only thing made in the U.S. that had the capacity to bring gold and silver into the vaults of the nation's banks.” Thus, while in the popular imagination slavery was a Southern institution, the North had just as much blood on its hands.
The effect of slavery is long-reaching as it has even influenced management techniques that are currently used. Southern plantation owners utilized extremely meticulous methods of measuring slave productivity and tracking their profits. “Several of the slave owners’ practices, such as incentivizing workers (in this case, to get them to pick more cotton) and depreciating their worth through the years, are widely used in business management today.”
Slave owners were able to keep such records due to their having total control over slaves and thus they were able to try a number of different techniques on their slaves and that, coupled with the extreme accounting methods, resulted in slave owners being able to manipulate their slaves (such as using cash rewards) to see just how much cotton they could pick over a certain period of time and then turning that into the base amount from then on. “Similar incentive plans reappeared in early twentieth-century factories, with managers dangling the promise of cash rewards if their workers reached certain production levels.”
The Civil War itself, was somewhat based in economics. While there was an abolitionist movement in the North and in no way, shape, or form can that be downplayed or ignored, it should be noted that the abolitionists and their radical Republican allies “comprised no more than fifteen percent of the Northern population.” The Republican Party as a whole was concerned with economics. With regards to Northern economics, “the most important development was the reorientation of trade from its north-south channel along the Mississippi to an east-west axis that included the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal. Shipping along the Mississippi continued to grow” and east-west commerce, especially by railroad post-1855, began to be far greater than commerce on the north-south axis. Thus, the South was becoming economically less important. The Republicans responded to this westward shift by combining an anti-slavery political approach with a pro-western economic approach. The anti-slavery goals of the Republicans were limited as the most they agreed to was an opposition to the westward expansion of slavery, yet this coincided with the new economic realities as not having slavery in the west opened up the lands for white settlers.
The economic conditions in the South were also changing as many planters who needed new soil to curb their growing concerns of soil exhaustion found themselves out of luck due to increased Northern opposition to the expansion of slavery. However, there was a split between those who were concerned about new soil and thus the expansion of slavery and those who weren’t. The northern counties of states like South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi weren’t too concerned about this as they were all “part of the Deep South more closely connected with the states to the north by an expanding overland trade” and “raised the most grain, and fostered a culture of small milling centers and artisan production.” The ones who were most concerned about new soil came from those in the southern counties, where primarily cotton was grown. The people there were convinced that without the expansion of slavery westward, the entire system was at risk of destruction.
At the end of the day, however, the southern states seceded because they feared that Lincoln and the Republicans would do away with slavery, irrevocably changing the South forever.
While chattel slavery was abolished, it took two different forms, one was economic in the form of sharecropping and the other based on the prison system, in the form of convict leasing which lasted until World War Two.
The Early Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement isn’t just viewed as a struggle that was overall peaceful, with the emphasis being generally put on non-violent actions and figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but also a movement that was organized mainly by middle-class individuals and focuses on the large struggles of the 1960s. In promoting this narrative, it ignores the working-class and how much of their struggles formed the beginning of what would become the Civil Rights Movement. Two examples can be found in labor and in teaching.
The civil rights era began in “the early 1940s when the social structure of black America took on an increasingly urban, proletarian character.” While major organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League began to work more with labor organizations at that time, their legal and social focus didn’t allow them to have a strategy that worked in the workplaces and neighborhoods of working-class black Americans. However, this gave space for union organizing to take center stage.
This was noted at the time as “a Rosenwald Fund study concluded, not without misgivings, that ‘the characteristic movements among Negroes are now for the first time becoming proletarian;’ while a Crisis reporter found the CIO a ‘lamp of democracy’ throughout the old Confederate states.” Thus, we see that working-class people were taking center stage.
In 1943, a major organizing effort was underway as the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America, in conjunction with the Congress of Industrial union federation, led a new union drive at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, NC. The two year organizing campaign which began in 1941 came to an apex when black women working at the plant stopped laboring on June 17th. The women were able to do this due to a severe chronic labor shortage as many men were at war, there were also long-term wage grievances that had yet to be settled and the strike soon went plant-wide.
This strike brought up a massive debate about exactly who constituted the leadership of the black community. Members of the small black middle class of Winston-Salem wrote a letter in the Winston-Salem Journal urging the workers to end their strikes, arguing that the campaign for collective bargaining rights “had to remain secondary to the more important goal of racial betterment, which could only be achieved by ‘goodwill, friendly understanding, and mutual respect and co-operation between the races.’” The workers didn’t take too kindly to this, with one worker, W. L. Griffin, stating:
I have attended church regularly for the past thirty years [and] unity and co-operation [has] been taught and preached from the pulpits of the various Negro churches. Now that the laboring class of people are about to unite and co-operate on a wholesale scale for the purpose of collective bargaining, these same leaders seem to disagree with that which they have taught their people. 
We can see from this that there were major differences depending on one’s class background and, in a sense, the betrayal of the black working-class. Instead of supporting the workers, the town’s black middle class effectively sided with the white owning class, leaving the workers out to dry.
While the management did attempt to derail the action by a number of methods, such as supporting a anti-union movement by the white workers and the white business community organizing an emergency meeting to stop the movement, in December 1943, the black workers at the plant prevailed as the National Labor Review Board election saw the dream of collective bargaining come to fruition.
However, this wasn’t the end of the situation as the worker organizations began to have a major impact on the politics of the Winston-Salem black working-class community. By mid 1944, the “Local 22 of the reorganized and renamed Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers (FTA) had become the center of an alternative social world that linked black workers together regardless of job, neighborhood, or church affiliation.” A major player in the politics of the FTA and in Local 22 was the Communist Party, with FTA president Donald Henderson having been a long time associate of the party. By 1947, the party had inducted nearly 150 Winston-Salem blacks, virtually all tobacco workers, into the party. The majority of these workers viewed the party as “both a militant civil rights organization, which in the1930s had defended such black victims of white southern racism as the Scottsboro boy sand Angelo Hearndon, and as a cosmopolitan group, introducing members to the larger world of politics and ideas.”
The tobacco trade unionism revived a large amount of black political activism in the town as while the NAACP did attack racial discrimination before the arrival of the CIO, many didn’t join due to the fear of associated risks being affiliated with the organization and this the majority of the new membership came from the traditional black middle class.
Yet, the local NAACP grew after the Local 22 started its own campaign to recruit members for them, resulting in their membership exploding to nearly 2,000 in 1946, making it the largest NAACP chapter in North Carolina. Furthermore, the CIO engaged in a number of other political activities such as voter registration and mobilization, “challenged the power of registrars to judge the qualifications of black applicants and insisted that black veterans vote without further tests,” and generally “activists encouraged the city's blacks to participate in electoral politics,” with the slogan being “Politics IS food, clothes, and housing.”
Unions also had a major impact in Detroit, specifically involving black auto workers and the Union of Auto Workers in the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge complex. The Ford complex attempted to control the black workers by creating what was essentially a separate hiring process for blacks in which workers were hired on the recommendation of an influential black minister, which “strengthened the pro-company, anti-union attitude of most churchmen and reinforced the hostility shown the early CIO by leaders of the Detroit Urban League and the local NAACP branch.” This indoctrination of sorts had a serious effect as during the 1940-1941 UAW Ford organizing drive, many black workers were hesitant to join and then in April 1941, when many workers went on strike, several hundred black workers scabbed in the plant. Due to this, the UAW made a concerted effort to win over members of the local black middle class who were independent of the Ford patronage network.
When the NAACP voted to support the UAW, black workers soon began to flood the union’s ranks and due to the plant having a considerable size of blacks, many black officers and staffers were in leadership positions within the union. Due to the unionization process, the political consciousness of workers awakened and they engaged in a number of activities, from intimidating foremen to challenging top management to breaking the company spy system. This also extended into the field of civil rights, with black workers organizing and demanding the hiring and promotion of black workers and defending “black occupancy of the Sojourner Truth Homes, a federally funded project that became a violent center of conflict between white neighborhood groups and the housing starved black community.”
The use of the workplace as a location of awakening political consciousness and action worked not only in the factories, but also in the schoolhouses, with Milwaukee being a prime example. In the context of the public school, “civil rights were defined as winning jobs for Black teachers, who in turn would support Black youth trapped in the city's racialized and economically depressed labor market.” During the late 1930s, the black community began a new strategy for racial progress in education: direct lobbying of the school board to hire black teachers. Executive director of the Milwaukee Urban League, William Kelly, argued “that jobs for Black teachers would motivate Black high school students to value hard work, since their current job prospects were bleak and did not reward academic effort” and “that, at minimum, the school board should replace white teachers who feel they are ‘wasting their efforts on the colored children,’ thus opening up jobs for Black teachers who could reach out to students and families of their own race.” One school board member proposed having the Ninth Street School be a training grounds for black teachers, done in the same fashion of other Northern cities where black teachers were assigned to black schools, however this received considerable backlash as other board members worried that Italians, Irish, and other ethnic groups would demand the same treatment. A compromise was brokered that would last until the 1950s: the school system would hire a small amount of black teachers to teach at predominately black schools, but under the guise of an unbiased hiring policy to avoid legal and ethnic disputes.
Yet during the 1950s, the situation changed as due to the increased black population more and more black teachers were assigned to mainly black schools, which raised criticism from a number of school board members and effectively imperiling the terms of the agreement. The agreement was saved via the Brown v. Board decision which ended school segregation, but the black community of Milwaukee used the decision in a rather unusual way: rather than leaving the situation as it was, instead they used it as a weapon in the fight to get black teachers jobs.
Kelly, along with local attorney James Dorsey, harnessed the judicial victory and political momentum to engage in two days of hearings in from of Chicago’s newly created Fair Employment Practices Committee which led to a dramatic increase in employment for black Milwaukeeans in the school system.
No matter the location, the workplace and unions were utilized by working and middle class black people as tools in their battle to gain fair access into the labor market and awakened the political consciousness of many individuals.
While the early Civil Rights Movement was organized around the workplace and unions, later groups would actively be co-opted by larger organizations with their own agendas for the black community.
Social Engineering and Radical Politics
In the mid-1950s, the bus boycotts in Baton Rouge and Montgomery were the first moves in the development of a major sustained campaign against white supremacy in the South.
Throughout the boycotts, local support was central to the continuation of the actions and professional social organizations such as the NAACP largely played a supporting role. Even in the 1960s with the start of lunch counter sit-ins and the 1963 March on Washington and 1964 Mississippi Freedom campaign, the dynamics generally remained the same and by 1964, the civil rights campaign had spread even into the small town backwaters of the deep South with voter registration campaigns.
This changed with the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act as it encouraged people to pursue more moderate paths as they had faith that the federal government would protect them from discrimination, which resulted in a decrease in militant activities as people believed that working within the system would be the most viable means to continue making gains.
Due to this moderation, grassroots groups such as the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), began to dissipate and moderate social groups began to rise, but not from the community, but rather from elite patrons which “invested overwhelmingly in the moderate [social organizations], strengthening their technical capacities.”
This information in actually backed up by a 1984 study which noted that:
[The] older, more established, and generally more moderate organizations-the National Urban League, the NAACP, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund- received more outside income than other groups which were younger and more militant. Secondly, the incomes of the NUL, the NAACP, and the LDEF grew steadily during the 1960s.The incomes of the SCLC, CORE, and SNCC, on the other hand, grew rapidly during the early 1960s and then rapidly declined during the second half of the decade. (emphasis added)
Foundations also played an increased role in funding black organizations during the 1960s. As the black struggles of the 1960s progressed and as the militancy of the black population grew, foundation contributions became major sources of income for the National Urban League, the Southern Regional Council, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund- all moderate organizations. In 1970, these three received an estimated total of $7,143,534 in foundation gifts, up from $1,461,264 in 1964. (emphasis added)
Thus, we see that outside organizations are played a major role in the financing of moderate social groups, but more importantly we see that they were all reactive in nature. This wasn’t something that was planned out, but rather a response to the changing conditions on the ground. However, one still may doubt this information, arguing that there is no evidence to support it. Fortunately, there is the case of the Ford Foundation’s involvement with CORE.
On the July 14, 1967 front page of the New York Times an article entitled “Ford Grant to Aid CORE in Cleveland” noted that the Ford Foundation was to give a grant of $175,000 to CORE to aid in voter registration and leadership training for blacks in Cleveland.
The Ford Foundation had a rather interesting take on black people as their view was that blacks needed to be peaceably incorporated into the existing political and economic structure and by the late 1960s, they “approached this dilemma from a ‘developmental’ perspective that emphasized racial separatism, especially in terms of culture and economics, so that African American communities could mature to assimilate eventually in the American mainstream with the least conflict” and most important to this goal was “the creation of indigenous, grassroots leaders who could organize and control the urban black masses and with whom it could broker.” It was in CORE that the Ford Foundation hoped to use for their ends.
While it may seem that the Ford Foundation and CORE had differing interests, there were many striking similarities as both “sought to ‘organize the ghetto’ by making working-class blacks a decipherable and controllable constituency through schematized top-down expert intervention and the development of indigenous leaders/brokers amenable to both groups’ respective visions for the black community.” In other words, both organizations sought to use working-class blacks to realize their own visions for the community within a hierarchical framework in which the people would be told what to do rather than deciding for themselves.
In order to get a fuller understanding of CORE’s situation in Cleveland, it would be pertinent to examine the changes in the organization and the city at the time.
CORE had changed to a virtually all-black group by 1966 as the leadership “sought to give power to inner city African Americans so that a united, articulate, and powerful black community would be able to participate as an equal partner in the political and economic arenas of the nation.” This change to purely black issues and based in black separation didn’t come out of left field. The case of CORE member Ruth Turner is a prime example of what led to this change.
Ruth Turner of Cleveland “joined the group in 1961,” “quit her job as a German teacher in Cleveland in 1963 to devote herself full-time to working for the local chapter after witnessing police violence against civil rights protesters,” and “was at the forefront of CORE’s largely fruitless direct action activism for integrated schools, fair housing, and industrial employment for Cleveland’s black community against a recalcitrant or openly hostile white power structure.” Turner became disillusioned and sought a new strategy in the fight for equality which she eventually found in the community activism. The Turner case reflects the failures of fighting for integration, leading many to believe that it was nothing but a roadblock to CORE’s mission which was moving from purely civil rights to focusing on larger socio-economic issues.
Yet, while this change may as if it could help, it actually played into the larger hands of the social engineers as “in seeking to engineer for the black community the cultural and social conditions that they believed had allowed for the empowerment of white ethnic groups, CORE’s leaders implicitly bought into the dominant twentieth-century liberal model of ethnic succession and cultural assimilation.” Furthermore, by wanting the black community to engage in a massive psychological reset or a large revitalization of culture in which black people would learn about their history and develop a sense of pride, the organization effectively “accepted and perpetuated the hegemonic notion shared by policymakers and activists across the color line and ideological divides that cultural deprivation, whatever its roots and implications, plagued the black poor.” In other words, CORE’s views of the black community were directly linked to demeaning ideas of blacks in which the problems of the black community were rooted in black culture.
It was these ideas that guided CORE’s Cleveland Target City program in which the organization attempted to, with Ford Foundation funding, politically awaken urban blacks and get them socially and economically active in the community. In practice, the program was highly regimented, placing large emphasis on ‘expert’ planning and leadership who, it was thought, would engage in the “heavy lifting to bring urban African Americans out of the social, cultural, and political doldrums, and into a cohesive and coherent unit with the ‘commitment, awareness and leadership, so that the Negro community can act on its own behalf.’” Cleveland was extremely important to CORE as it represented a proving ground for a national program that was to be launched and it represented a shift in the organization’s strategy.
Rather than focusing on local issues and acting in the manner that was best for the locality in which the CORE chapter was operating, CORE now was focused on the ‘big picture’ and looked for ways to aid urban blacks no matter where they were located. CORE viewed this as a chance to take advantage of government actions like the War on Poverty to fight for their radical vision of society which included a guaranteed income and transferring the money used in the War on Poverty to focus on issues of jobs, housing, and education.
However, those dreams were never to come to fruition as private funds decreased for black social organizations that advocated black nationalism and separatism. This created a paradox where CORE had to appeal to the very people it advocated separating from. CORE attempted to sell its program of community organization to whites as the most moderate way, being more radical than the Urban League and NAACP “due to its nationalism and connection to the black poor, but more moderate than SNCC and the Black Panthers due to its model of strong leadership and black capitalism as the way out of inner-city unrest.” One of the few places where CORE was able to get money was from the Ford Foundation, thus making them susceptible to being a tool for the Foundation’s own interests, interests that should be examined at some length.
From its beginnings in the 1950s, the Ford Foundation promoted the idea that society could be socially engineered in a top-down manner, utilizing experts in the social sciences, in order to deal with the problems facing American society, with the end goal being social peace. The Foundation viewed unassimilated groups (such as Latinos and Blacks) as a threat to social harmony and to this end; they began to deal with this ‘problem’ from a purely research-based approach that focused on municipal governance. The strategy changed the following decade due to the social upheaval of the 1960s and so the Foundation, specifically regarding the black community, had a “desire to end the conflict caused by black assertions of full citizenship—both through the organized non-violence of the civil rights movement and the disorganized violence of the riots—and the white resistance that ensued.” In order to deal with the ‘black problem,’ the Foundation shifted away from attempting to immediately integrate blacks into American society, instead believing that a period of separation might aid in the creation of institutions and leadership the black community needed to compete with others in society via economic and education advancement. By 1968, the Foundation’s newly created Division of National Affairs was explicitly promoting this model and arguing that grants should be given to organizations whose goal it was to increase the group identity and power of minorities. Thus, we see how the Ford Foundation, via its funding, was able to use CORE for its own purposes.
While many black organizations, from CORE to the Black Panther Party were manipulated, had members murdered and imprisoned, and dealt with massive amounts of state repression most notably in the form of COINTELPRO, this repression and fractionalization within the movements themselves caused new politics to spring up, specifically black anarchism.
The idea of black anarchism first and foremost comes out of the failure of the civil rights movement to achieve full equality, with many of the aforementioned radical movements arguing in favor of the total autonomy of black communities rather than attempting to integrate into mainstream, capitalist US society. There were also splits within the black power movement on the question of how to gain that autonomy and freedom, with stop arguing for strict nonviolence, others were in favor of self-defense and armed struggle, while others still wanted to work with the state in order to gain freedom. There were internal problems within many of these organizations themselves, such as with the Black Panther Party, which started out a revolutionary decentralized movement and transformed into a highly centralized, top-down organization in which a large amount of power had been placed in the hands of one individual, Huey P. Newton.
However, many black anarchists came out of the BPP (as well other black power groups) and actually utilized much of the positions of the Party. For example, the Panthers aided in the creation of an intersectional analysis, “critiquing state domination, class, race, and gender inequality,” and realized that “there are divergent interests among Blacks of different social classes, as well as between Black men and women,” not to mention the Panthers analysis of race within a revolutionary context. All of this was echoed by black anarchists.
While the anarchist movement itself was overwhelmingly white, there were many times were blacks and anarchists were linked in some ways, for example, “Martin Luther King contributed articles to Liberation magazine, alongside anarchists David Wieck, Dave Dellinger, and Paul Goodman. And the famous Black activist Bayard Rustin was fired in 1951 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation due to his homosexuality but was soon after hired by the anarchist-led War Resisters’ League.” Yet, it should be noted that black anarchism didn’t emerge within the white-dominated US anarchist movement, but rather came out of the black liberation organizations that were focused on Marxist-Leninism.
With regards to learning about anarchism, many black activists learned of anarchism in prison, such as Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, who has noted that he “[encountered] anarchism when arrested in East Germany and then receiving anarchist literature while a prisoner in 1973” and “[said that] his first serious consideration of anarchism occurred through meeting Martin Sostre [a black activist who fell victim to false accusations that were part of COINTELPRO] in 1969.” While the BPP’s centralization of power was rejected, black anarchists still maintained an emphasis on community organization and intersectionalism.
What has yet to be discussed, but has been eluded to is the center of uprisings, the ghetto.
In order to understand the ghetto uprisings that occurred in the mid and late 1960s, an understanding is needed of how the ghetto was created and how it essentially is an internal colony. The creation of the ghetto is due to racial segregation, for which Kansas City is an important case study in seeing how racism and real estate came into play.
Up until the beginning of the 1900s, there were no racially segregated neighborhoods in Kansas City, with 1880 census data showing that black and whites lived among each other and with other minorities. Soon the mass migration of blacks coming up north to escape southern racism resulted in the flooding of Kansas City with more black residents, yet interestingly enough, these blacks didn’t “form a unitary, autonomous and racially and culturally defined community with specific geographical boundaries” and thus “local residents did not interpret black culture or behavior as connected to a particular 'place' occupied exclusively by blacks.”
This influx of migrants resulted in an increased competition for housing and jobs, the consequences of which were race wars involving intimidation, harassments, cross burnings, and race riots. The real estate industry responded to the large increase in the black population by forming “an exclusionary real estate ideology that associated the presence of blacks with declining property values and neighborhood instability,” which was amplified by the National Association of Real Estate Boards that “published numerous textbooks, pamphlets and periodicals warning real estate firms that racial minorities threatened property values and that neighborhoods should be racially homogeneous to maintain their desirability.” Several local real estate boards in cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit responded to the information NAREB was putting out by endorsing and passing measures that allowed for maintaining racial homogeneity as a way to protect property values and keep the neighborhoods from devolving into racial battlefields.
This racial segregationist ideology coincided with new thinking about locations in which they could be judged based off of who was living in them. Local elites began to associate the areas in which blacks lived with “deteriorating neighborhoods, poor schools, high crime and other negative characteristics” and that wasn’t all as “much of this emerging thinking about the relationship between race, place and behavior was fueled by housing reports and analyses issued by local welfare agencies and Kansas City's Board of Public Welfare, the nation's public welfare agency.” Much of this thinking was based around the negative stereotypes of black people, such as they were lazy, didn’t know how to take care of their children, and that they were in poverty due to their immorality.
Many localities began to respond to the changing racial makeup of their town by creating race restrictive covenants which are defined as “contractual agreements that prohibit the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a particular group of people, usually African Americans."
These covenants were used to create and maintain racially segregated neighborhoods and even though the US Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that such covenants were illegal, they were still used all over the nation and in the case of Missouri, its court system was “still enforcing explicit racially restrictive covenants up to at least five years after the Supreme Court's decision and they continued to appear on deeds through the 1960s.”
Private industry was involved in the creation of covenants as well as was the case with the J. C. Nichols Company which “built dozens of racially restricted subdivisions for upper- and middle-income whites and explicitly prohibited all housing sales to blacks.” The federal government also encouraged racist housing policies with the 1934 creation of the Federal Housing Administration whose Underwriting Manuals “considered blacks 'adverse influences' on property values and the agency warned personnel not to insure mortgages on homes unless they were in 'racially homogenous' white neighborhoods and covered with a restrictive covenant.” While the FHA removed such racist language in the 1950s and onwards private real estate agents and firms, banks, and appraisal associations used such language into the 1970s.
Another tactic used was the homeowners’ associations which were formed in response to possible black movement into a white neighborhood. These associations engaged in a variety of tactics to thwart black people.
They raised money to purchase property from recent black homeowners, bought homes from landlords renting to blacks and acquired vacant homes in their neighborhoods. Homeowner associations also lobbied city hall for the passage and enforcement of discriminatory land-use ordinances and the closing of streets where black residents resided. In some neighborhoods, homeowner associations organized demonstrations protesting the movement of blacks and threatened boycotts of white businesses who catered to black clients. In addition, homeowner associations launched suits to revoke the licenses of real estate agents who sold homes to blacks and to enforce racial restrictions on the sale and purchase of land in their neighborhoods.
So the ghetto was effectively a creation of racist housing policies, yet in creating the ghetto, the white power structure also created an area that was an internal colony of sorts.
During the late ‘50s, black militants began to identify more and more with peoples who either were or had been colonized. While some would argue against this notion that the ghetto was a colonized entity, there are similarities between the ghetto and colonized nations, the features of which “s ultimately relate to the fact that the classical colonialism of the imperialist era and American racism developed out of the same historical situation and reflected a common world economic and power stratification” and thus “because classical colonialism and America's internal version developed out of a similar balance of technological, cultural, and power relations, a common process of social oppression characterized the racial patterns in the two contexts-- despite the variation in political and social structure.” What makes the ghetto inherently colonial is that, as was just mentioned, the ghettos were created involuntarily, the ghetto persisted itself and became a multi-generational phenomenon rather than was with other groups who were there for one or two generations before fully integrating into American society, and that all facets of the community, economic, political and administrative, are controlled from the outside. Coupled with this was the fact that blacks had “very little influence on the power structure and institutions of the larger metropolis, despite the fact that in numerical terms, Blacks tend to be the most sizeable of the various interest groups” and a1968 study focusing on Chicago showed that blacks “really [held] less than1 percent of the effective power in the Chicago metropolitan area” even though they made up 20% of Cook County’s population and that “realistically the power structure of Chicago [was] hardly less white than that of Mississippi.”
This internal colonization that many were unable to get out of created a feeling of being trapped and from this feelings of alienation which “grew out of the anger of betrayal, a betrayal that began when the inner-city dwellers were made the inheritors of decaying cities.”
It was within this context that the ghetto uprisings of 1964-1968 took place. The riots initiated in Harlem in 1964 over an off-duty police officer having gunned down a fifteen year old black resident. Over the next two months, the riots quickly spread to “Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn), Rochester, Paterson, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Philadelphia, and Dixmoor (Chicago)” and continued in 1965, with some of the largest riots taking place in Chicago and Los Angeles. While all of these riots happened in different locations, there were many similarities in their causes. The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (aka the Kerner Commission), a committee established in 1967 to examine the riots, found that black communities all over the country had a number of similar grievances, among them were un- and under-employment, inadequate housing, education , federal programs, and municipal services, and police brutality.
The riots themselves allowed the inhabitants of the ghetto to take out their anger on those who were causing their pain, namely the police and white businesses, the two major groups that were singled out for attacks. The police were a target as not only did they brutalize people, but they also “they came to symbolize the despised invisible white power structure” as for many blacks, “the police had come to represent more than enforcement of law; they were viewed as members of an occupying army and as an oppressive force acting on behalf of those who rule their environment but who fled it for the greener pastures.” White businesses were attacked as “resentment against the practices of exploitation, in the form of hidden and higher interest rates, shoddy goods and lower quality, higher prices and questionable service” had been building for years and was finally let loose.
It was these riots that black anger was let loose and the rage was allowed to go and get a sort of revenge on the institutions that were the major causes of their day to day suffering. Yet these very riots also caused the Ford Foundation to engage in its aforementioned social engineering in an attempt to steer the path of black people in a manner that was befitting to them. The black community would be affected soon, not by social engineers but something just as problematic and even more deadly: drugs.
The uprisings of the ‘60s and the increased movement towards black radicalism in the ‘70s put the entire US social system in disarray. Blacks had shown that they were not going to deal with the horrid conditions that had been hoisted upon them and would fight back, taking whatever means necessary. The power structure was caught completely unaware and thus had to move quickly in order to regain control of black areas. To this end, the solution came in the form of black capitalism from Richard Nixon, who himself was rather interesting as it related to black people.
Nixon seemed to have a split personality when it came to civil rights. At times he was anti-civil rights, such as when he “identified his administration with opposition to racial busing, and shifted the onus of federal government coercion in school integration policy from executive agencies in the presidency to the federal courts” and in 1972, asked for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment against school busing. Yet, there were moments when he seemed pro-civil rights. For example, during his first term in office, he “sent budgets to Congress that increased agency appropriations for civil rights enforcement from $75 million in 1969 to $2.6 billion by 1972” and quietly supported the “effective efforts of George Shultz, first as labor secretary and then as Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, to coordinate peaceful school desegregation throughout the South.” Thus, Nixon was a rather strange, seemingly conflicted individual on civil rights.
Strangely enough, the philosophical roots of Nixon’s black capitalism can be traced back to his time on the Committee on Government Contracts (CGC), when he was Vice President in the Eisenhower administration. The CGC was established in 1953 by Eisenhower in order to “receive complaints of alleged violations of nondiscrimination provisions in government contracts and forward them to the appropriate contracting agencies” and “[provide] educational training to assist government agencies and nongovernmental organizations in eliminating discrimination against minorities working in projects that received governmental funding.”
On December 14, 1954, the CGC released a report entitled Summary of Meeting Between The President's Committee on Government Contract and Representatives of Industry which included a rather interesting statement: “It is in the country's self-interest. The advancement of the nondiscrimination program helps to create better relations between free nations. Discrimination in employment provides fuel for Communist propaganda and to the extent that we help eliminate discrimination we help eliminate a very serious problem.” Nixon linked discrimination-free employment, specifically with regards to black people, as part of battling Communism and aiding in national security.
Furthermore, Nixon’s black capitalism idea actually complimented his Southern Strategy during the 1968 presidential campaign as “Because black economic development and racial integration are not necessarily related, Nixon could make political overtures such as ‘Black Capitalism’ to blacks without offending southern whites.”
However, Nixon wasn’t the only one grappling with philosophy at the time. The entire black community was struggling on how to go forward. After MLK’s death, there were a number of viewpoints in the black community regarding what black people should do to move forward, some focused on economics, others focused on fighting the battles in the court system, still others argued for an increase in civil rights legislation. This lack of a unified viewpoint and strategy allowed for Nixon to develop this black capitalism idea and hopefully attract black people to it. Two major black figures were interested in and became major proponents of black capitalism: Floyd McKissck and Roy Innis.
McKissick was initially a pro-integration civil rights lawyer and nonviolent advocate, however, he began to take a turn to aggressive Black Power in 1967 when he became the national director of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). During his tenure, CORE effectively became an all-black organization. In 1969, McKissick penned the book Three-Fifths of A Man, in which he argued that the United States should cede several states to black control. Around this same time, he resigned as head of CORE to create McKissick Enterprises by which to “pursue his interest in black economic development full-time.” He publicly supported Nixon’s ‘Black Capitalism’ initiative and seemingly due to this, he “later received one of the largest aggregations of federal grants associated with Nixon’s economic plan for black America. McKissick and his McKissick Enterprises were awarded upwards of $17 million to start ‘Soul City,’ a new town development project in North Carolina on 3,000 acres of land” and was seemingly similar to the plan outlined it his book, but drastically scaled down. By 1972, McKissick had become a staunch Republican and while Soul City didn’t particularly work out (it seemed that the finances were being used for anything but creating a city), McKissick’s endorsement of black capitalism and embracement of the Republican party became a major asset for Nixon and later President Ford as he actively fundraised for Republicans in the black community and created an organization whose stated goal was to elect more black Republicans to Congress.
Roy Innis was McKissick’s successor in leading CORE and almost immediately went to work making the group even more radical than it already was. This had started in 1966 when, as head of the Harlem chapter, Innis pushed for and obtained a resolution denouncing integration and purging the organization of its white members at a national CORE conference. At the 1968 national conference, Innis proposed a new constitution which “called for ‘the complete takeover by blacks of all economic, political, and social institutions in black communities for the purpose of fostering the economic development of these communities’” and he generally called for greater black ownership of ‘capital instruments.’ It was during this same period that Nixon began expounding upon his ideas of black capitalism.
There is some scant evidence to suggest that this didn’t just happen out of the blue. Rowland Evans, Jr. and Robert D. Novak both co-authored the 1971 book Nixon in the White House: The Frustration of Power, were they alleged that “Innis supported Nixon during the Presidential campaign of 1968 in hope of being designated "the President's man in the ghetto.’” While he was ignored by Nixon, both he and McKissick’s endorsement of black capitalism aided Nixon by establishing black capitalism as a legitimate initiative and helped to control the black population as he personally viewed black people and the Black Power movement specifically, as a major internal security threat.
Black capitalism would allow for the creation of a black middle class, which would actually help to maintain the current system of control as many people, not just conservatives, assumed “that unrest in the ghettos [was] in large part caused by the absence, among Negroes, of a moderating, stabilizing middle class.” From a purely conservative point of view, “the best guarantor of social peace [was] the ownership of property,” but from a larger, systemic view, “The development of a Negro middle class appeals to anxious concerns about social stability, the threat of increasing demands for serious economic redistribution programs, and the restoration of acceptable go-betweens in a situation of increasing racial polarization.” With the creation of a black middle class, there were hopes that the uprisings and unrest would dissipate.
War Of Drugs
But, Nixon also launched on war on the black population as well through his War on Drugs. On June 17, 1974 he made a statement saying that “America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” Statements such as this created the idea that drug use was rampant and a major problem nationwide. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 2002 Gallup reported that
In [the] popular imagination, the 1960s were the heyday of illegal drug use -- but historical data indicate they probably weren't. In fact, surveys show that drug abuse was comparably rare, as was accurate information about the effects of illegal drugs. In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 4% of American adults said they had tried marijuana. Thirty-four percent said they didn't know the effects of marijuana, but 43% thought it was used by many or some high school kids. (emphasis added)
So drug use wasn’t even particularly high during the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. What is interesting is that the War on Drugs was formally launched in 1974; however, 10 years later there were reports of crack-cocaine being used. According to a New York Times article from 1985 a new form of cocaine (crack) was hitting the streets, with mainly teenagers engaging in its abuse and in 1986 they noted that “On the street corners of Harlem, the Lower East Side and other inner-city neighborhoods around the country ravaged by the heroin epidemic of the late 1960's and early 70's, teen-agers - the people who determine future drug trends - are turning to cocaine as their drug of choice.” There was an importation of cocaine even before the 1980s as according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, “by the late 1970s there was a huge glut of cocaine powder being shipped into the United States.” So, we have to ask this question: If the US government was waging a war on drugs in an attempt to keep drugs out of the country, then how did the country end up with a crack-cocaine epidemic in the ‘80s?
It is because that same government was waging a war of drugs via the Iran-Contra dealings under the Regan administration. While it has been ridiculed in mainstream thought as nothing more than a fringe conspiracy theory, there is an abundance of evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency aided in the transportation of cocaine into the United States.
In 1996, it was noted in Jet magazine that the CIA was having an independent investigator “look into allegations that the federal agency was involved in the flow of crack cocaine into Black communities during the late 1980s” and that CIA Director John M. Deutch “told more than a dozen [Congressional Black Caucus] members that he had no reason to believe allegations that the CIA funneled profits from a crack cocaine ring to aid anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua (commonly known as the Contras) during the [1980s].” It took two years for the findings to come out and when it finally did, the report relieved the Agency of all accusations. However, when one begins to look at the information, it just doesn’t pan out to be true at all.
For example, on October 19, 1996, Peter Kornbluh, a Senior Analyst at the National Security Archive, gave a Congressional testimony in which he stated that “the U.S. government tolerated the trafficking of narcotics into this country by individuals involved in the contra war” and that
there is concrete evidence that U.S. officials-- White House, NSC and CIA--not only knew about and condoned drug smuggling in and around the contra war, but in some cases collaborated with, protected, and even paid known drug smugglers who were deemed important players in the Reagan administrations obsessed covert effort to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. (emphasis added)
Kornbluh uses then-Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s diaries to provide evidence that North knew about the drug smuggling:
Oliver North's own diaries, and internal memoranda written to him from his contra contact, reveal explicit reports of drugs trafficking.On April 1, 1985, Oliver North was informed by his liaison with the contras, Robert Owen, that two of the commanders chosen by the FDN to run the southern front in Costa Rica were probably, or definitively "involved with drug running."[…]
On August 9, 1985, Oliver North was informed that one of the resupply planes being used by Mario Calero, the brother of the head of the largest contra group the FDN, was "probably being used for drug runs into [the] U.S."
Adding to this, in July 1998, the New York Times came out with an article noting that the CIA knew that the contras were smuggling drugs. The article itself reads “The Central Intelligence Agency continued to work with about two dozen Nicaraguan rebels and their supporters during the 1980's despite allegations that they were trafficking in drugs, according to a classified study by the C.I.A.” and that the decisions to keep dealing with those agents, despite their drug trafficking “was made by top officials at headquarters in Langley, Va., in the midst of the war waged by the C.I.A.-backed contras against Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista Government.”
To put a final nail in the coffin, the US Department of Justice’ Office of the Inspector General published a special report in December 1997 noted that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee also known as the Kerry Commission led by Senator John Kerry, found that “it [was] clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the Contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers.” Thus, not only did the government know who was trafficking drugs into the US, but they also took an active role in transporting those drugs.
From this war on drugs, came mandatory minimum sentencing which, while many would say is due to white legislators, what isn’t as talked about is that there was also support for these harsh sentencing policies in the black community itself. Many black people supported the war on drugs as they “felt constantly under threat from addicts and others associated with the drug trade, and their calls for increased safety measures resonated at community meetings, in the pages of black newspapers like 'The Amsterdam News,' and in churches.” There was support from black people at the federal level as “members of the newly-formed Congressional Black Caucus met with President Richard Nixon, urging him to ramp up the drug war as fast as possible.”
When the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established both mandatory minimums and created the crack-cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity by “[imposing] a five year mandatory minimum sentence for distribution of five grams of crack cocaine, enough to fill a sugar packet, while imposing the same sentence for 500 grams of powder cocaine,” the bill had support “from about half of the black Congressional caucus and many African American advocates.” So we can see that many blacks played a role in enacting policies that would aid in the destruction and harm of their very community.
Now, does the involvement of black people in supporting and enacting these laws mean that the War On Drugs isn’t racist? No, not at all. For evidence of this, we only need to look at the attitudes of people regarding the modern-day heroin epidemic.
In April 2014, NBC News ran a number of stories on the growing heroin epidemic and a number of things stood out. First off “Drug users and their families [weren’t] vilified; there [was] no panicked call for police enforcement” and secondly, people becoming heroin addicts wasn’t “the result of bad parenting, the rise of single-parent families or something sick or deviant in white culture. It [wasn’t seen as] an incurable plague that is impossible to treat except with jail time.” There is further evidence that there is a difference between the way blacks and whites are treated with regards to drugs as a number of white families who have been impacted by the heroin epidemic are “part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement” and that politicians have reached a general consensus that “punishment is out and compassion is in” with people such as Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina “[telling] their own stories of loss while calling for more care and empathy.” This clearly shows that the war on drugs, from the policies that were enacted to people’s support for it, was based mainly in a racial lens that demonized black and brown people, saying that there were inherent cultural problems in those communities whereas nowadays, with the heroin epidemic, the same language and policies are thrown to the way side. Heroin addicts are humanized and treated as people with a serious health problem rather than potential criminals.
The war on drugs led to another major issue: police militarization.
In order to talk about police militarization, what first must be examined is the history of the police as an institution and its racist roots.
During Colonial America, there were serious racial and ethnic conflicts across the country. Small watch groups had been formed in an attempt to combat crime, but this proved to be ineffective due to the changing social climate and more formalized institutions began to come into existence. In the South, slave patrols were relied upon to keep order and “manage the race-based conflict occurring in the southern region of Colonial America” with “with the specific intent of maintaining control over slave populations” and later White indentured servants. This situation continued until after the Civil War, when the entire social, economic, and political order of the South had gone completely to shambles. It was during Reconstruction that “several groups [such as the Ku Klux Kan, state militias, and former Confederate soldiers] merged with what was formerly known as slave patrols to maintain control over African American citizens” and as time went on, this conglomerate “began to resemble and operate similar to some of the newly established police departments in the United States. In fact […] by 1837, the Charleston Police Department had 100 officers and the primary function of this organization was slave patrol.” The creation of police in the North was also rooted in racism as “Indian Constables [were created] to police Native Americans [and] the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city.” So, we can see that the creation of the police in the US is mainly due to racism.
The use of the police as a control mechanism against blacks can be seen during the Civil Rights Movement as well. While the Movement was going on, the police were still “killing eight times as many Blacks as whites” and as the momentum built and interracial alliances between blacks and other groups formed not only did “police and white citizens re-enacted the same violence once used against abolitionists to maintain the color line” but on a systemic level, the role of the police as a tool against black insurrection once again became the purpose of police.
The tools that the police used to wage war against poor communities of color would change with the war on drugs. In 1988, a defense funding bill passed which “rewrote significant portions of federal law on the relationship between the military and local LEAs by specifying an active role for the military in the so-called ‘War on Drugs’” with the law itself building upon legislation passed in 1981 which allowed for the military “to provide temporary assistance in support law enforcement in drug interdiction, immigration control, or customs on a case-by-case basis.” In 1989, Congress passed a second bill, the National Defense Authorization Acts for Fiscal Years (NDAA) 1990 and 1991, which created program 1033 and allowed the Pentagon transfer military-grade equipment to police engaging in counter-drug activities. Originally set to expire in 1992, the bill was renewed in subsequent defense spending legislation until 1996 when the NDAA for fiscal year 1997 was passed and the 1033 program made permanent.
Police militarization hadn’t really been reported on or for the most part known about until 2014, when Michael Brown was gunned down by officer Darren Wilson. In the ensuing protests and riots, the militarized police were bought out in force to ‘handle’ the protesters. The new face of American police was shown for not only the country, but the world at large to see. It was from this incident that the Black Lives Matter movement has sprung up, fighting against police brutality and demanding police accountability. While there has been much criticism of Black Lives Matter, such as them being blamed for the death of police officers, there has also been major support for the activists.
Interestingly enough, though, the current Obama administration has been quite strange with regards to the issue of police brutality. On one hand, President Obama came out in support of the movement in October 2015 but earlier that year, in May, he signed “into law a measure that will require instant nationwide ‘Blue Alerts’ to warn about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who carry them out.” This latter move essentially shows whose side Obama is on. It isn’t police that are getting violently gunned down every day as not only is the occupation of police officer not even in the top ten for most dangerous jobs, but also “policing has been getting safer for 20 years.” So for him to sign into law a bill which creates what is an effective Amber Alert for police officers while so many times remaining silent on the fact that so many are gunning down unarmed civilians, it effectively shows where he stands.
While the police were (and still are) engaging black communities in the 1980 and ‘90s, problems were about to get much worse for black people when Bill Clinton came into office with his welfare reform and NAFTA plans.
The Clinton Administration
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, a false narrative had emerged which “that there were white people who played by the rules, and then there were people of color — and particularly black people — who were taking from those people in an illegitimate way.” Partially, this narrative developed due to the media which engaged in broadcasting racist stereotypes about black people who relied on welfare. Political scientist Martin Gilens came out with a book in 1999 entitled Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy, in which he “examined the photographs of poor people in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report over a forty three-year period” and found that “that during the period studied (1950–1992) most of the poor people pictured (53 percent) were African Americans, when, in fact, on average only 29 percent of the poor during that entire period were African American.” So what occurred was that a disproportionate amount of black people were being shown on welfare when that wasn’t the case and the effect was that in the minds of the public, welfare became synonymous with black people.
Conservatives would take advantage of this idea in the ‘90s. Republicans had already been calling for welfare ‘reform’ at the state level since the late ‘80s and argued for changes in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) policies such as “[mandating] that mothers reliant on welfare participate in job programs or undergo job training, and commence or continue with educational programs.” According to these conservatives, current AFDC policy was creating a culture of welfare dependency. Yet this argument was linked into stereotypes that black people were lazy and used welfare as a way to avoid work and that black women had children to increase their welfare benefits.
Consistent with this thinking, the Republicans proposed welfare reform legislation in the form of the 1995 Personal Responsibility Act in the House which “in large part framed the stated rationale and key provisions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that President Clinton signed into law in August 1996.” The effects of this policy were horrendous as while many former welfare recipients now entered the workforce, many of them were not working full-time and were earning low wages. According to the Economic Policy Institute most former welfare recipients were “earning between $6.00 and $8.00 per hour, a wage insufficient to enable them to provide for their families. And although the poverty rate has declined overall, it has increased among working families, particularly those headed by single mothers. For those families that were already poor, poverty in the last several years has deepened.” Overall, the effects of the economic boom and welfare shrinkage in the ‘90s were “the continuation of extreme income inequalities and lower but still high poverty rates.”
Under the Clinton administration, NAFTA was also passed which harmed black people. The Economic Policy Institute did a study in 1997 which found that “Between 1993 and 1996, women lost 141,454 jobs to NAFTA, blacks lost 36,890 jobs, and Hispanics lost 22,520 jobs, numbers closely reflecting these groups’ shares in manufacturing industries.” This loss of jobs also caused an increase in wage gaps, with the gaps between blacks and whites increasing, from $12,645 in 1990 to $14,249 in 2000. A major reason for the increased gaps has to do with job dislocation. Blacks and Latinos are, as the saying goes, ‘last hired, first fired,’ and due to this, it takes them longer to find jobs and as a result, the unemployment rate was much higher in the 1990-2000 period, with black unemployment being three times higher than whites (15.1% versus 4.8% respectively). New economic problems would come to hit black people in the 21st century, problems that have lasting effects and came about as a result of the Great Recession.
The Great Recession
While officially the Great Recession is over, the effects it has had on black people is still continuing to this day.
CBS reported in 2011 that during the Great Recession (2007-2009), “the median net worth for white households had fallen 24 percent to $97,860; the median black net worth had fallen 83 percent to $2,170” and that “Since the end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate has fallen from 9.4 to 9.1 percent, while the black unemployment rate has risen from 14.7 to 16.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor.” So, not only had black net worth fallen at more than three times the rate of white net worth, but it was compounded by the increase in black unemployment. It actually seems that white households have actually gained wealth since the recession as “t wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010.”
The pain may very well impact future generations. The American Civil Liberties Union came out with a study which predicted that by 2031 “the typical white household will have 4.5 times more wealth than its black counterpart” and that the “forecasted $98,000 decrease in wealth per black family (versus wealth levels if the Great Recession hadn’t happened) would hamper their ability to secure their children’s future with things like home down payments, college tuition and an inheritance.” The situation looks even bleaker when you factor in that due to the recession, the black middle class lost three decades of wealth and that “homes accounts for about 60 percent of black wealth.” This actually puts the vey economic future of black people at risk as in an age where a college degree is needed and, like always, homes have been a way of adding to and transferring wealth to the next generation, the lack of such assets will drastically decrease the economic power of the black community.
Unfortunately, the pain of the recession is concentrated with black women. Since the recession, “the percentage of black female-headed households in poverty jumped from 43.9 to 47.3 percent” and the net worth of the typical black woman is a mere $100. “Another way to think of this situation is to realize that nearly half of single women of color have zero or negative net worth, meaning their debts equal or exceed their total assets.” Not only do black women have to lead so many households at this time, but they must attempt to do so in increasingly precarious economic conditions.
TV host Tavis Smiley noted in January 2016 that “on every leading economic issue, in the leading economic issues Black Americans have lost ground in every one of those leading categories. So in the last ten years it hasn’t been good for black folk. This is the president’s most loyal constituency that didn’t gain any ground in that period” and unfortunately, he is right.
The economic problems that black people are dealing with are having long-term effects and if history is any indication, the pain will only continue.
1: Ulrich B. Phillips, “The Economic Cost of Slaveholding in the Cotton Belt,” Political Science Quarterly 20:2 (June 1905), pg 258
4: Ulrich, pg 260
5: Edward E. Baptist, Louis Hyman, “American Finance Grew On The Backs Of Slaves,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 6, 2014
7: Sven Beckert, Seth Rockman, “How Slavery Led To Modern Capitalism: Echos,” Bloomberg View, January 24, 2012
8: Katie Johnson, “The Messy Link Between Slave Owners and Modern Management,” Forbes, January 16, 2013
10: Marc Egnal, “The Economic Origins of the Civil War,” Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, 2011, pg 31
11: Egnal, pg 30
12: Egnal, pg 31
13: Devon Douglas-Bowers, Debt Slavery: The Forgotten History of Sharecropping, The Hampton Institute, November 7, 2013
14: Devon Douglas-Bowers, Slavery By Another Name: The Convict Lease System, The Hampton Institute, October 30, 2013
15: Robert Korstad, Nelson Lichtenstein, “Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the
Early Civil Rights Movement,” The Journal of American History 75:3 (December 1988), pg 786
16: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 787
17: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 789
19: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 791
20: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 792
21: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 793
22: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 794
23: Korstad, Lichtenstein, pg 797
24: Jack Dougherty, “’That’s When We Were Marching For Jobs:’ Black Teachers and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Milwaukee,” History of Education Quarterly 38:2 (Summer, 1998), pg 123
25: Dougherty, pg 126
26: Craig M, Eckert, J. Craig Jenkins, “Channeling Black Insurgency: Elite Patronage and Professional Social Movement Organizations in the Development of the Black Movement,” American Sociological Review 51:6 (December 1986), pg 817
27: Herbert H. Haines, “Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970,” Social Problems 32:1 (October 1984), pg 36
28: Haines, pg 40
29: Karen Ferguson, “Organizing The Ghetto: The Ford Foundation, CORE, and White Power in the Black Power Era, 1967-1969,” Journal of Urban History 34:1 (November 2007), pg 70
30: Ferguson, pg 69
31: Ferguson, pg 73
32: Ferguson, pg 74
33: Ferguson, pg 76
34: Ferguson, pg 77
35: Ferguson, pg 81
36: Ferguson, pg 84
37: Dana M. Williams, “Black Panther Radical Factionalization and the Development of Black Anarchism,” Journal of Black Studies 46:7 ( July 2015), pg 682
39: Williams, pg 688
40: Kevin Fox Gotham, “Urban Space, Restrictive Covenants, and the Origins of Racial Residential Segregation in a US City, 1900-1950,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24:3 (September 2000), pg 620
41: Gotham, pg 621
43: The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, Historical Shift from Explicit to Implicit Policies Affecting Housing Segregation in Eastern Massachusetts, 1920s-1948: Racially Restrictive Covenants, http://www.bostonfairhousing.org/timeline/1920s1948-Restrictive-Covenants.html
44: Gotham, pg 624
45: Gotham, pg 625
46: Gotham, pg 626
47: Gotham, pg 627
48: Robert Blauner, “Internal Colonialism and Ghetto Revolt,” Social Problems 16:4 (Spring, 1969), pg 395
49: Blauner, pg 396
50: Blauner, pg 398
51: Joseph Boskin, “The Revolt of the Urban Ghettos, 1964-1967,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 382 (March 1969), pg 5
52: Boskin, pg 7
53: Boskin, pg 10
54: Boskin, pg 11
55: Hugh Davis Graham, “Richard Nixon and Civil Rights: Explaining an Enigma,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 26:1 (Winter 1996) pg 94
57: Lewis A. Randolph, Robert E. Weems Jr., “The Ideological Origins of Richard M. Nixon’s Black Capitalism Initiative,” The Review of Black Political Economy 29:1 (2001), pg 50
58: Randolph, Weems Jr., pg 51
59: Randolph, Weems Jr., pg 52
60: Randolph, Weems Jr., pg 54
62: Randolph, Weems Jr., pg 55
63: Randolph, Weems Jr., pg 56
64: Martin Rein, “Social Stability and Black Capitalism,” Trans-action 6:8 (June 1969), pg 4
65: Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=3048 (June 17, 1971)
66: Jennifer Robinson, Decades of Drug Use: Data From the ‘60s and ‘70s, Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/6331/decades-drug-use-data-from-60s-70s.aspx (July 2, 2002)
67: Peter Kerr, “Growth In Heroin Use Ending As City Users Turn To Crack,” New York Times, September 13, 1986
68: Foundation For A Drug-Free World, Crack Cocaine: A Short History, http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crackcocaine/a-short-history.html
69: “CIA Director Calls Probe Into Agency’s Alleged Drug Activities,” Jet, October 14, 1996, pg 38
70: John Diamond, “Internal Probe By CIA Disputes Allegations of Crack Connection,” The Spokesman, http://www.spokesman.com/stories/1998/jan/30/internal-probe-by-cia-disputes-allegations-of/ (January 30, 1998)
71: National Security Archive, Congressional Inquiry Into Alleged Central Intelligence Agency Involvement In The South Central Los Angeles Crack Cocaine Drug Trade: Testimony of Peter Kornbluh, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/pktstmny.htm (October 19, 1996)
73: James Risen, “CIA Says It Used Nicaraguan Rebels Accused of Drug Tie,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/17/world/cia-says-it-used-nicaraguan-rebels-accused-of-drug-tie.html (July 17, 1998)
74: Office of the Inspector General, The CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy: A Review Of The Justice Department’s Investigations and Prosecutions, https://oig.justice.gov/special/9712/ch01p2.htm (December 1997)
75: Arun Venugopal, “Black Leaders Once Championed Strict Drug Laws They Now Seek To Dismantle,” WNYC, http://www.wnyc.org/story/312823-black-leaders-once-championed-strict-drug-laws-they-now-seek-dismantle/ (August 15, 2013)
76: Caryn Devins, Stuart Kauffman “The Ultimate Crack Down: We Know Not What We Do,” NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2012/06/25/155699660/the-ultimate-crack-down-we-know-not-what-we-do (June 26, 2012)
77: Stephen Lerner, Nelini Stamp, “When Heroin Use Hit The Suburbs, Everything Changed,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-heroin-use-hit-the-suburbs-
everything-changed/2014/05/16/187dcce2-d79e-11e3-95d3-3bcd77cd4e11_story.html (May 16, 2014)
78: Katharine Q. Seelye, “In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War On Drugs,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html?_r=0 (October 30, 2015)
79: Sage Publications, The History of Policing, http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/50819_ch_1.pdf, pg 4
80: Ibid, pg 5
81: Victor E. Kappeler, A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing, Eastern Kentucky University Police Studies Online, http://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing
82: Ben Brucato, “Fabricating the Color Line in a White Democracy: From Slave Catchers to Petty Sovereigns,” Theoria 61:4 (December 2014), pg 41
83: Raymond J. Dezzani, Lanny McAden, Steven M. Radil, The Road To Ferguson: Geographies of US Police Militarization and the Role of the 1033 Program, Research Gate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280949429_The_Road_to_Ferguson_Geographies_of_US_Police_Militarization_and_the_Role_of_the_1033_Program (August 14, 2015), pg 8
84: Jessica Lussenhop, “How Black Lives Matter was blamed for killing of US police officers,” BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34135267 (September 14, 2015)
85: Darlene Superville, “Obama defends Black Lives Matter movement,” Associated Press, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/obama-defends-black-lives-matter-movement/ (October 23, 2015)
86: Gregory Korte, “Obama signs ‘Blue Alert’ law to protect police,” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/05/19/obama-blue-alert-law-bill-signing/27578911/ (May 19, 2015)
87: Bankrate.com, 10 of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the US, http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/10-most-dangerous-jobs-us-2.aspx
88: Radley Balko, “Once again: Police Work is NOT Getting More Dangerous,” Washington Post,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/10/02/once-again-police-work-is-not-getting-more-dangerous/ (October 2, 2014)
89: Joshua Holland, How Bill Clinton’s Welfare ‘Reform’ Created a System Rife With Racial Biases, BillMoyers.com, http://billmoyers.com/2014/05/12/how-bill-clintons-welfare-reform-created-a-system-rife-with-racial-biases/ (May 12, 2014)
90: Noel A. Cazenave, Kenneth J. Neubeck, Welfare Racism: Playing The Race Card Against America’s Poor (New York, NY: Routledge, 2001), pg 128
91: Cazenave, Neubeck, pg 138
92: Cazenave, Neubeck, pg 143
93: Heather Boushey, The Effects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act on Working Families, http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_tanf_testimony/ (March 4, 2002)
94: Frank Stricker, “Staying Poor in the Clinton Boom: Welfare Reform and the Nearby Labor Force,” Journal of Poverty 7:1 (2003), pg 25
95: Jesse Rothstein, Robert E. Scott, NAFTA’s Casualties: Employment Effects on Men, Women, and Minorities, Economic Policy Institute, http://www.epi.org/publication/issuebriefs_ib120/ (September 1, 1997)
96: Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Lessons from NAFTA: The High Cost of ‘Free Trade,’ http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National_Office_Pubs/lessons_from_nafta.pdf
98: CBS, Whites Recover, But The Black Recession Lingers, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whites-recover-but-the-black-recession-lingers/ (July 9, 2011)
99: Richard Fry, Rakesh Kochhar, Wealth Inequality Has Widened Along Racial, Ethnic Lines Since End of Great Recession, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/12/racial-wealth-gaps-great-recession/ (December 12, 2014)
100: Kenrya Rakin, Report: Future Generations of Black People Will Feel Great Recession Pain, http://www.colorlines.com/articles/report-future-generations-black-people-will-feel-great-recession-pain (June 23, 2015)
101: Dawn Turner Trice, “30 Years of US Black Middle Class Economic Gains Have Been Wiped
Out,” Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/us-black-middle-class-is-suffering-2012-10 (October 7, 2012)
102: Marion Johnson, Why America’s Women of Color Have Lost Ground Since The Great Recession, Scholars Strategy Network, http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/why-americas-women-color-have-lost-ground-great-recession (July 2013)
103: Tom Blumer, “Tavis Smiley’s Reprise: Blacks Have Lost Ground Under Obama ‘On Every Leading Economic Issue,’” Newbusters, http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/tom-blumer/2016/01/13/tavis-smileys-reprise-blacks-have-lost-ground-under-obama-every#.7sulpw9:6ysW (January 13, 2016)
104: Larry Elder, “Under Obama, Blacks Are Worse Off- Far Worse,” Townhall, http://townhall.com/columnists/larryelder/2015/07/23/under-obama-blacks-are-worse-off--far-worse-n2028985/page/full (July 13, 2015)