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The years of prosperity after World War II are known as Les Trente Glorieuses. But while they were glorious for white Americans, African Americans were left out of the economic expansion. The Great Migration continued as Blacks tried to improve their lot, but good jobs were getting more scarce as the economy was experiencing technical change that destroyed factory work. Blacks were cut out of the GI bill because it was administered by states. Blacks therefore could not get good education for the new technology, mortgages for houses in the new suburbs, and were often denied membership in unions. Brown v. Board of Education was designed to create integrated classrooms, but whites moved to private schools and suburbs to avoid integration. Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 Voting Act provided wars to outlaw Jim Crow laws, but it was severely limited in its effect by the Supreme Court. Some Blacks were able to get a good education and graduate from college. They became a Black Elite.
The book opens with a chapter on slavery, starting with the absence of Blacks from “we the people” in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The American Revolution led to the Constitution, and Hamilton’s reports were vital to the new country. They set the basis for the Louisiana Purchase and the Missouri Compromise. Cotton agriculture in the South and manufacture in the North contributed to economic growth. The 1837 banking crisis interrupted this progress and further compromises over slavery in new states set the stage for the Civil War. Time on the Cross is examined to illustrate the role of Blacks and how hard it is to write about it.
Reconstruction ended in 1876 as railroads, mining, and agriculture grew. Robber Barons emerged as the leaders of these activities became rich. The Supreme Court in the 1880s eliminated the constitutional amendments passed during Reconstruction to help Blacks by either rejecting them or reinterpreting them. Jim Crow laws were passed in many Southern states after 1896 depriving Blacks of the vote and leading to a decline in Black education. I describe the movie, Birth of a Nation, to show the attitude of white people at the time of World War I toward Blacks and Reconstruction. Those views have been shown since to be totally false.
The first part of my conclusion recalls the journey of African Americans from the formation of the United States to the present as discussed in previous chapters. The second part of my conclusion looks forward to improve education for Black students. Learning from research in education since Brown v. Board of Education and from dramatic wealth differences between white and Black graduates at different levels, a variety of efforts have been made to improve Black education. There are political hurdles to spending money on Black education and conflicts with the effects of mass incarceration. The possibility of educational success for all Americans, like the health of all Americans in the pandemic, may remain illusive.
Reconstruction followed the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination. Under President Andrew Johnson, presidential reconstruction was favorable to the defeated slaveowners. When Johnson was impeached and then defeated in the polls, Radical Republicans in Congress took over Reconstruction. They were not radical enough to give freedmen 40 acres and a mule, and their efforts to reform Southern state governments were only temporary. President Grant tried to help freedmen, but Republicans transferred their interest from the violent South to the expanding West.
The Great Migration ended in 1970 as manufacturing was replaced with electronic goods. Wages stagnated, and income inequality increased rapidly. This led to a new Gilded Age. Nixon replaced Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty with his War on Drugs. Blacks were opposed to Nixon’s Vietnam War, and he penalized them by incarcerating them. This, helped by state laws and President Reagan, led to mass incarceration – which became known as the New Jim Crow. Public education was reserved for suburban whites, while urban Blacks were in prison or attended underfunded schools. The Flint, Michigan, water crisis demonstrates the difficulty of urban Blacks as jobs and urban facilities disappeared. President Obama was the first Black president, elected in the financial crisis of 2008. The Supreme Court nullified the 1965 Voting Act as it had done with amendments in the 1880s. Obamacare was the most enduring achievements of Obama’s presidency.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Most immigrants came to America because they wanted to come, but African immigrants were forcibly brought to America by their captors. They differed from other immigrants because they were captives who could not choose their place of residence, and they became enslaved people in the colonies and early United States. This book brings those neglected immigrants into the mainstream of American economic history by describing what happened to them as the economy developed.
Reacting to a Black president, voters elected Donald Trump in 2016. He was a real estate entrepreneur who operated at the edge of the law on real estate. He tried to change laws to help him and skirted the edge of reality when he could not. He continued his business while in office and earned money from government operations. He also was a racist who encouraged rural white people to despise Blacks and try hard to hurt them. He tried and failed to repeal Obamacare. Following 2008, investment of all kinds diminished. Physical investment went down; financial investment became harmful to the economy; educational investment was decreased ,and social capital evaporated. When the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic struck, Trump refused to lead a government effort to deal with it, leading to more than 500,000 deaths and economic disaster. Trump ran for reelection on his 2016 program and lost his bid for reelection. President Biden attempted to reign in the pandemic and restore prosperity over continuing Republican opposition.
The great Migration started in World War I as the demand for war work rose. The United States broke the European stalemate and ended the war. The Treaty of Versailles created a lot of economic trouble that led to World War II. Unrest during the 1920s led to women’s suffrage and immigration restrictions. The Great Depression was partly the result of the Versailles Treaty. Roosevelt’s New Deal alleviated American worker’s problems, but Blacks were excluded from the New Deal programs. World War II enlisted Black soldiers who were victimized as they returned to Southern homes after the war.