Black History is American History and It Lives On

Paul Street Feb 24, 2011

The Shortest Month of the Year

We’re more than half way through Black History Month. Should it exist? Is it worthwhile? There’s something to be said for designating a period of time each year when people are encouraged in various ways to reflect on the black American historical experience. My wife recently gave me the obvious answer to the standard complaint of a local Caucasian curmudgeon who likes to say that “while [he’s] not a racist,” he doesn’t see white folks calling for a White History Month: “every month,” Janet observes, “is white male history month.” Especially rich white males, I added.

Still, I can’t shake a certain discomfort with the notion of taking one month (the shortest of the year) and assigning it to black history.  Whatever the good intentions behind and positive results of Black History Month, there’s a downside: a tendency to downplay the centrality of black experience, consciousness, and agency – and the persistent if shifting history of racism that has shaped that experience – to the overall 12-month-a-year record of United States History

If we must or should retain Black History Month and separate high school and college classes on black history, let us do so with a strong awareness that black history is not some benevolently white-granted side-story or footnote in the bigger narrative of the national experience.  Let us make no mistake: American history is black history to no small extent and black history is at the heart and soul of the entire American historical record.  American history is wedded and deeply indebted to and scarred by an often very dark black history and to the living (even with a black U.S. president) history of deeply entrenched anti-black racism.

Tobacco Slavery and Freedom

I’m not just talking here about how the White House that Barack Obama now inhabits was built by slaves. Look back to the early economic development of British colonial North America and the early American republic.  It depended fundamentally on North America’s first cash crop, tobacco, grown down in the Chesapeake.  The work involved in planting, tending, and harvesting tobacco was too exhausting and difficult for white indentured servants and freehold farmers to endure without resistance.  They rebelled over the miserable working and living conditions. The wages and other benefits these “free born Englishmen” required to stay reliably yoked to the tobacco fields were cost-prohibitive for the tobacco planters of Virginia and Maryland – the ancestors of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison.  Native Americans were unavailable to perform the toil because of the ease with which European germs killed them off and the ease with which those who survived could escape into their native hinterland.  By the end of the 17th century, the planters found the final solution, so to speak, to the labor problem in southern tobacco: permanent black chattel slavery, entrenching full denial of basic rights to black human beings designated both labor and capital at one and the same time by their permanent owners.1

Grown by black slaves, tobacco was a vital resource for the early republic.  Proceeds from tobacco permitted the U.S. government to pay France for the critical military assistance it provided the Americans during the War for Independence.  Curiously enough, one of the grievances that Virginia slaveholder and tobacco planter Thomas Jefferson listed against England’s King George on July 4, 1776 was that the “royal brute” in London had “excited domestic insurrection among us” – a not-so veiled charge that England had encouraged slave rebellion.

Black tobacco slavery’s contribution to the American Revolution was more than economic. As the American historian Edmund S. Morgan showed in his magisterial book American Slavery, American Freedom, there was no real paradox in the fact Virginia in the 1770s was at one and the same time (a) a locked-down slave colony (home to fully 40 percent of all slaves in America) and (b) home to the American Revolution’s most eloquent spokesmen for freedom and equality.  The strange marriage of slavery and freedom in Virginia made sense, Morgan showed, in two ways. First, the fact that most of the laboring force on which it depended was un-free, considered less than human, and branded by color meant  that Virginia’s gentry was free to couch its opposition to the British Empire in particularly democratic- and egalitarian-sounding terms.  As one British diplomat observed, the Virginians “can profess unbounded love of liberty and of democracy in consequence of the mass of the people, who in other countries might become mobs, being there nearly altogether composed of their own Negro slaves…”

“There it was,” Morgan wrote. “Aristocrats could more safely preach equality in a slave society than in a free one.  Slaves did not become leveling mobs, because their owners would see to it that they had no chance to.  The apostrophes to equality were not addressed to them.  And because Virginia’s labor force was composed mainly of slaves, who had been isolated by race and removed from the political equation, the remaining free laborers and tenants were too few in number to constitute a serious threat to the superiority of the men who assured them of their equality.”

Thanks to slavery, Jefferson and Madison were free to spin the flowing rhetoric of equality to a degree that that the British gentry and manufacturers – justly frightened by their freeborn workers and tenant farmers – of the time would never have dared.2

Second, the rhetoric of freedom resonated with particularly great strength among the Virginia planter elite because their own slave system provided them with such a graphic example of freedom’s opposite. “The presence of men and women who were, in law at least, almost totally subject to the will of other men gave to those in control of them an immediate experience of what it could mean to be at the mercy of a tyrant.  Virginians,” Morgan noted, “may have had a special appreciation of the freedom dear to republicans, because they saw every day what life without it could be like.” 3

King Cotton

Some optimists like Jefferson felt that chattel slavery’s centrality to the economic life of the sprawling new American empire would fade with the exhaustion of tobacco and the closing of the international slave trade in 1808.  The opposite occurred, thanks to Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, the planters’ success in encouraging the natural “domestic reproduction” of black slaves, and the British-led early industrial revolution’s insatiable demand for southern cotton.  A sea of white cotton and black slaves spread across the South, providing a leading source of capital accumulation and economic growth in the young republic (not to mention vital raw material for British textile manufacturers and the early industrial revolution in New England). As with tobacco, the essential labor tasks were too hot, difficult, and exhausting to have been conducted profitably except with the branded labor of slaves.  The Holocaust of slavery critically underwrote the development of North American capitalism in the early and mid 19th century.

Southern blacks would remain tied to the yoke of King Cotton, “pa[ying] the price and carr[ying] the burden of the nation’s need for cheap and abundant cotton” (Stephen Steinberg) well into the 20th century. Southern agricultural and northern industrial elites and the national political class collaborated in “the reconstruction of black servitude” in the South after the Civil War. As Stephen Steinberg noted in his classic historical study The Ethnic Myth, “through the Civil War ended slavery, the underlying economic functions that slavery served were unchanged,” calling for the construction of “a surrogate system of compulsory labor” enforced by the Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and the regular use of violence to prevent the movement of blacks to northern labor markets.  As long the giant new industrial employers of the northern states had access to cheap European immigrant labor, those employers “saw no reason to raid the labor supply of the South, especially when [the North’s] own economic well being depended on an abundant supply of cheap cotton” with its price depressed by the super-exploitation of Jim Crow black labor. Southern racist cotton productionism continued to support the economic expansion of the American capitalist state and helped create some of the northern labor demand that gave rise to historic migration of millions of East and south-central Europeans to the United States from the 1880s through World War I.4


During WWI and WWII, black southern labor fled (often at no small risk during the first conflict) to northern cities, helping industrial capitalists meet production needs in a time when immigration had been cut off.  U.S. success in both wars depended significantly on super-exploited black labor south and north, from Mississippi cotton fields to Chicago packinghouses, Detroit auto and tank plants, and Pennsylvania steel mills. The U.S, military engaged in the significant direct exploitation of black labor and soldiers to attain victory in the two wars that together handed the United States victory over Germany in the great 20th century struggle to succeed England as the hegemonic power in the world capitalist system.

WWI was not the first time that black working people contributed to an American military victory, of course.  During the Civil War, many of the South’s 4 million black slaves undermined the Confederacy from within by stopping work, deserting plantations, walking into Federal camps. Discipline broke down in southern fields as more southern planters and overseers went off to fight and slaves sensed the possibility of slave owner defeat. The great black academic and author W.E.B. DuBois discovered what he called a “general strike” in which hundreds of thousands of slaves left their plantations, ending the South’s ability to supply its armed forces. Two hundred thousand blacks enlisted in the Union Army and Navy and 38,000 died in the Civil War.  “Without their help,” the leading American historian James McPherson noted, “the North could not have won the war as soon as it did, and perhaps could not have won at all.”5

The Civil War and its aftermath Reconstruction – epic moments in the expansion of federal government power – were about race to no small extent. The great military conflict (600,000 killed on both sides in a national population of 30 million) grew out of a life or death conflict between two models of westward expansion, one (by no means anti-racist) based on dynamic entrepreneurial, industrializing wage-labor capitalism and the other based on a decrepit, hopelessly inefficient, and in some ways pre-capitalist and agrarian system of bound, chattel slavery – a system that depended fundamentally on the savage and deeply racist, systematic dehumanization of millions of blacks.6

Realignment: The Party of Lincoln Becomes the Party of Jefferson Davis

In the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, race and memories of the war shaped party allegiance and voting behavior across the country. The “third American party system” of the late 19th century pitted Republicans (heirs to the defunct Whigs) against Democrats.  From Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt, the Republicans were the national party of industrial liberalism.  Based on an alliance of the Northeast and the Midwest with southern blacks, it called for a strong federal government, a corporate-industrial political economy, and (if only sporadically) for federally protected civil rights for nonwhites. The Democratic Party was based on a coalition of the South and the West with the North. It stood for states’ rights, agrarian capitalism, and (if just intermittently) regulation of big industry in defense of farmers and northern workers.  This party divide was both sectionalized and racialized. The northern “party of Lincoln” (the Republican Party) was identified to some degree with the cause of black rights and the southern “party of Jackson” (the Democratic Party) was identified with the Confederacy and the dehumanization of blacks. One of the Democratic Party’s main historical functions was to keep southern blacks powerless. 7

In the 20th as in the 18th and 19th centuries, black experience, consciousness, and activism – and the broader racism that created and shaped those – held major meaning for the political as well as the economic history of the nation. America labor and other progressive activists seeking to win elementary social democratic reforms (like national public health insurance) in the middle 20th century were consistently stymied in Washington by a coalition of northern business Republicans and rich white conservative southern Democrats in the one-party “solid[ly Democratic] South.” Helping enforce strict business-friendly boundaries on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” (the latter unsuccessfully sought national medical insurance),  this alliance’s southern wing rested on the disenfranchisement and segregation of southern blacks.8

When the black Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s forced key civil rights and voting rights legislation (and a number of pro-civil rights federal court decisions) in the middle and late 1960s, the nation’s political life underwent a significant change. Black voters attained and acted on their newfound capacity to defeat white segregationists and ultraconservatives in southern Democratic primaries.  No longer capable of denying power to southern blacks, the Democratic Party lost much of its allure to wealthy white southern Democrats. Rich southern whites exploited racial resentments and other conservative social and religious sentiments to lead southern middle, working, and lower-class whites into the Republican Party. The resulting “collapse of the New Deal coalition that had governed for most of the years between 1932 and 1968,” made it possible for Republicans to hold the presidency or all but fourteen of the years between 1968 and 2011 and to consolidate a national conservative Republican majority that gained control of both the Senate and House in 1994[9] (that majority currently controls the House). The “exchange of constituencies” (Michael Lind) resulting from the civil and voting rights victories was quite dramatic.  According to the liberal political analyst Michael Lind (throwing the word “liberal” around a bit too liberally) in the mid 1990s:

“The Democrats – formerly the southern populist liberal party – are now a northern national liberal party.  The Republicans – formerly the northern national liberal party – are now a southern populist liberal party.  The most faithful Republican voters today are the kind of conservative white southerners who voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948.  The most faithful Democrats today are the kind of constituencies that used to be the backbone of the Republican Party – social liberals in the North and black southerners.  The Democrats are now the party of Lincoln, and the Republicans have become the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and William Jennings Bryan – if not, indeed, of Jefferson Davis.” 10

The Democratic Party and the dying New Deal order lost part of their northern white ethnic working class base thanks in part to race and racism – well, to white backlash against the rise of black militancy in northern ghettoes, Thanks in part to the mechanization of southern cotton agriculture during and after WWII, a second great black migration fed the rise of vast hyper-segregated and desperately poor black populations in northern ghetto neighborhood across the urban-industrial north.  Already in the 1950s and 1960s, industrial jobs were disappearing in and around these neighborhoods, helping create a highly volatile situation that exploded in an epidemic of urban race riots and the rise of a militant new black power movement across traditional Democratic stronghold cities in the Midwest and Northeast. Millions of racist and racially threatened middle and working class Rustbelt whites recoiled fear and horror, embracing the party of Nixon and Reagan in the name of “law and order: and the rollback of school desegregation, affirmative action and the civil rights revolution as a whole. Racial fears also helped fuel rampant white flight into highly segregated white suburbs, fueling an epidemic of ecologically disastrous sprawl and the rising political significance of conservative suburban districts on the peripheries of increasingly non-white urban cores in the Midwest and Northeast.11

In these and other ways, the often unpleasant record of Black History is hardly just a side dish in the main meal that is American History.  It is an integral component of numerous items on the table.

The Struggle Continues

There’s another danger in Black History Month – the way it feeds (intentionally or not) the notion that black American’s struggle with racism is a thing of the past.  Contrary to the tendency of standard televised Black History presentations and contemporary conventional white wisdom to treat racial disadvantage and racism as a yesterday phenomenon, the unpleasantness of Black History and American History’s intersection is not over. A rich body of scholarly and journalistic evidence and readily observable black experience demonstrates the persistence of steep structural- and institutional-racist barriers to black advancement and racial equality beneath and beyond the real but limited victories of the civil rights movement and the election of a black president.  Those barriers include the following:

* Endemic racial bias in real estate and home lending that reflects and empowers the reluctance of whites to live next door to blacks. Racial discrimination in lending is systematic and occurs regularly.12

* Unequal incomes between black and white families, with black workers earning sixty cents for every dollar made by whites.13 Past research demonstrates that this inequality has nothing to do with black “laziness.”14

* Systemic racial residential and school segregation.15

* A critical shortage of affordable housing in predominantly white opportunity-rich communities and the systematic, historic efforts on the part of lenders, white communities, and the government throughout the post–World War II period to deny black families access to affluent, nonsegregated suburban living.16

* The disproportionate flight of capital and jobs from predominantly black communities, which has eroded former industrial urban cores and caused the rise of the “jobless” black inner-city neighborhood.17

* Historic and widespread public and private underinvestment in black communities.18

*Historic and persistent endemic racial discrimination in hiring and job training.19

* The radical growth of mass incarceration and the criminalization of adult black males, one in three of whom are marked for life by the crippling stigma of a felony record, a reflection of profound anti-black bias in the waging of the “war on drugs” inside the United States.20

* The refusal of many employers to hire people with felony records and the widespread employer assumption that black job applicants are felons, which together amount to an employment death sentence for millions of black Americans.21

* The wide and overlapping number of barriers to advancement that are set up by felony records and prison histories – barriers so high and difficult to overcome that the Ohio State law professor Michelle Alexander has recently referred to felony marking as “The New Jim Crow.”

* The aggressive pursuit of prison construction by many rural white communities and legislators in the promotion of a form of “economic development” that depends on black criminalization.22

* The funding of schools largely on the basis of local property wealth, which perpetuates existing race-based inequalities in the realm of school and teacher quality.23

* The hyper-concentration of black children in troubled, high-poverty, and underperforming schools.24

* The extensive reliance on high-stakes standardized tests and related zero-tolerance, quasi-militarized disciplinary procedures in predominantly black schools.25

* Endemic metropolitan sprawl, funded by massive state and national government subsidies that help create harshly race- and class-segregated patterns of development pitting affluent white suburbs against poorer and blacker inner cities and “inner-ring” suburbs.26

* The predominantly white nation’s refusal to remotely address the problem of reparations (at the very least by expanding social welfare directed at disadvantaged minority peoples) for more than two and half centuries of black chattel slavery and nearly a century of Jim Crow terror, both of which provide essential historical context for the astonishing persistence of a massive wealth gap between black and white American households.27

All of this and more is why I was so unimpressed with Obama’s instantly lauded Philadelphia race speech of March 2008 – the one where he said that black rage over racial injustice made sense for “the [black] men and women of Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright’ generation” (which came of age in the 1950s and 1960s) but was inappropriate and counter-productive “for at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.” 28

As my abbreviated list above strongly suggests, racial inequality is inextricably linked to the persistence of racial segregation. Social and economic opportunities are not distributed evenly across and between space and community. The geography of American opportunity is heavily racialized, as sociologist Douglas S. Massey noted years ago:

“Housing markets are especially important because they distribute much more than a place to live; they also distribute any good or resource that is correlated with where one lives. Housing markets don’t just distribute dwellings, they also distribute education, employment, safety, insurance rates, services, and wealth in the form of home equity; they also determine the level of exposure to crime and drugs, and the peer groups that one’s children experience. If one group of people is denied full access to urban housing markets because of the color of their skin, then they are systematically denied full access to the full range of benefits in urban society.”29

In testimony supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program, historian Thomas Sugrue explained why it is a matter of no small significance for racial equality that “whites and minorities seldom live in the same neighborhoods.” Expanding on the point, Sugrue observed, “The questions—where do you live? and who are your neighbors? – are not trivial. A person’s perspectives on the world, his friends, her group of childhood peers, his networks and job opportunities, her wealth or lack of wealth, his quality of education—all of these are determined to no small extent by where he or she lives.”30

We can be quite sure that this critical problem of racial segregation will be shown to be alive and well after demographic researchers crunch the numbers from the 2010 Census. Obama (who bent over backwards to downplay the relevance of race and racism in the U.S. on his path to the presidency) may have been elected president under remarkable circumstances in November of 2008 but we have not seen the ghetto populations of Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis etc. kindly dispersed and welcomed into predominantly white and higher opportunity communities in and around the metropolitan cores. Metropolitan hyper-segregation lives on, taking on an increasingly suburban dimension as poor urban blacks have been increasingly gentrified out of core central city neighborhoods.31 At the same time, the mid-term electoral triumphs of the racist and ever more rightwing Republican Party and its Tea Party front show that “white backlash” is alive and well.

In saying that racism lives on, I am concerned here with something deeper than the examples of open bigotry highlighted in occasional mainstream media discussions of explicit Tea Party–driven racism. The bigger problem is a persistent “state-of-being,” or structural, racism that generates racially disparate results even without racist intent (“state-of-mind” racism) on the part of white actors. Racialized social processes work in routine and ordinary fashion to sustain racial hierarchy and white supremacy often and typically without explicit white hostility or purpose. 32  This is not to deny that such level-one racist hostility and purpose lives on in a significant part of white America.   It most certainly does, as should be clear from a sample of signs displayed at Tea Party rallies over the last two years.  The sordid messages I have seen at these events include the following: “Somewhere in Kenya, a Village is Missing its Idiot”; “Barack Obama: Illegal Alien”; “The Zoo has an African Lion, and the White House has a Lyin’ African”; “Where’s the Birth Certificate?”, and “Impeach the Muslim Marxist.”

Paul Street ( the author of many articles, chapters, speeches, and books, including
The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010); and (co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio), Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, May 2011). Street can be reached at

This article was originally published on


1 Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (WW Norton, 1975); American Social History Project, Who Built America? Working People & the Nation’s, Economy, Politics, Culture & Society, Volume One (New York: Pantheon, 1989), 39-78.

2 Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 380.

3 Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 376.

4 Stephen Steinberg, The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America (Boston: Beacon, 1978), 173-200.

5 Quoted in Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2003), 194.

6 Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Eugene Genovese, The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South (Wesleyan, 1988).

7 Michael Lind, Up From Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America (New York: Free Press, 1996), 122-123; G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change (New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), 211.

8 Melvyn Dubofsky and Athan Theoharis, Imperial Democracy: The United States Since 1945 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1988), 31, 34-36,

9 Domhoff, Who Rules America? , 211-212.

10 Lind, Up From Conservatism, 123.

11 The literature on this is voluminous.  A good introduction is in the text and endnotes of Thomas Sugrue’s remarkable study The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press, 2005 [1996]).  See also Paul Street, Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman&Littlefield, 2007); Michael Brown et al., Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society (Berkeley, CA: University of California-Berkeley Press, 2003).

12 Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (London: Routledge, 1997), 136–137.

13 David Leonhardt, “The Black-White Pay Gap,” New York Times, September 16, 2010, at

14 Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 159.

15 Estimates for educational segregation for the Chicago metropolitan area, as compiled by the authors of this book, are based upon our consultation of district-by-district high school racial demographic backgrounds in Cook County, provided through the Illinois State Board of Education’s annual “Report Card.” For more on national residential and educational segregation, see also Charles Lamb, Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Oliver and Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth, 139; Jonathan Kozol, “Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid,” Harper’s, September 2005, and Jonathan Kozol, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (New York: Crown, 2005).

16 National Council of State and Housing Agencies, “NLIHC Finds Shortage of Affordable Housing Worsened for Low Income Households,” National Council of State and Housing Agencies, January 7, 2010, at Chicago Urban League, Still Separate, Unequal: Race, Place, Policy, and the State of Black Chicago (Chicago: Chicago Urban League, Department of Research and Planning, April 2005), 125–130.

17 Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis, 140–141; William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 3–24; William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 44.

18 Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis, 92; Robert O. Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 256; Arnold R. Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940–1960 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 15–16.

19 Chicago Urban League, Still Separate, Unequal, 140–145; Devah Pager, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis, 92; Self, American Babylon.

20 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010), 7, 59, 63–66, 73–77, 85–87, 95–136, 184, 191; Melissa Moore, “Covering Crime and Justice,” Justice Journalism, 2010, at

21 Pager, Marked; Alexander, New Jim Crow, 49–50, 145–50, 206, 216–217 ; Paul Street, The Vicious Circle: Race, Prison, Jobs, and Community in Chicago, Illinois and the Nation(Chicago: Chicago Urban League, Department of Research and Planning, October 2002). Pager found that the discrimination experienced even by black jobs applicants without felony records was significantly more extreme than that experienced by whites with felony records.

22 Street, The Vicious Circle.

23 Andrew Grant Thomas and Gary Orfield, Twenty-First Century Color Lines: Multiracial Change in Contemporary America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009), 47–48; Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (New York: William Morrow, 2005), 64; Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2004);  Harold Wenglinsky, “How Money Matters: The Effect of School District Spending on Academic Achievement,” Sociology of Education 70 (July 1997): 221–237; John Mackenzie, “Public School Funding and Performance,” University of Delaware Newark Working Paper, 2010, at

24 Kozol, “Still Separate, Still Unequal”; Kozol, Shame of the Nation, 18–19, 20, 28, 60.

25 See, among many sources, Jonathan Kozol, “Educational Apartheid Fifty Years After Brown,” The Nation, May 3, 2004; Alfie Kohn, “Standardized Testing and Its Victims,”Education Week (September 17, 2004);  Henry A. Giroux, The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 75–76, 79, 82–90, 98; Asa Hillard III, comments in “Beyond Black, White, and Brown,” The Nation, May 3, 2004; Paul Street, Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post–Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005), 78–80; and Street, Racial Oppression, 249–251.

26 Paul Kantor and Dennis R. Judd, American Urban Politics in a Global Age (New York: Pearson Longman, 2008); Kevin M. Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue, eds., The New Suburban History(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006); Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1985); Robert A. Beauregard, When America Became Suburban (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006); John R. Logan and Mark Schneider, “Racial Segregation and Racial Change in American Suburbs, 1970–1980,” American Journal of Sociology 89, no. 4 (1984); Stephen Grant Meyer, As Long as They Don’t Move Next Door: Racial Segregation and Conflict in American Neighborhoods (Lanham, MD.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000); Chicago Urban League, Still Separate, Unequal, 130; Environmental Justice Resource Center, “Suburban Sprawl and Transportation Racism,” Black Commentator, September 23, 2004; Robert D. Bullard and Angelo Torres, eds., Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Highways to Equity(Boston: South End Press, 2004).

27 Roy Brooks, Integration or Separation: A Strategy for Racial Equality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), ix; Joel Feagin, Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations (New York: Routledge, 2000), 261. For a discussion of the withdrawal of affluent, white taxes from social welfare spending for the poor, dating back to at least the 1970s, see Self, American Babylon.

28 Paul Street, “Obama’s Latest ‘Beautiful Speech,’” ZNet (March 21, 2008) at, , where I wrote the following: “What’s with the past tense [in Obama’s discussion of the scars of racism in American history]?….there’s plenty of living and active, ongoing racial oppression and discrimination sparking rage today among black Americans of all ages, including a large number of younger black males I have repeatedly heard rip Obama as ‘bourgeois’ and ‘a white man’s Negro.’ The oppression that angers Wright and other black Americans is more than an overhang from the bad old past. The humiliation and hopelessness felt by millions of those Americans are being reinforced, generated, and expanded anew on a daily basis right now… in the 21st century.  New ‘memories’ of racial tyranny are being created right now beneath the national self congratulation over loving Obama. Black ‘anger and bitterness’ is being generated within the U.S. by racist policies and practices in these ‘Joshua Generation’ years as well as in ‘those’ (‘Moses Generation’) years.”

29 Douglas S. Massey, “American Apartheid: Housing Segregation and Persistent Urban Poverty,” Distinguished Lecture, Social Science Research Institute, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, 1994.

30 Thomas Sugrue quoted in Chicago Urban League, Still Separate, Unequal, 23.

31 See, for example, Street, Racial Oppression, 169-192.

32 Feagin, Racist America; Brown et al., Whitewashing Race; Street, Racial Oppression.

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