Sixty years later, policy has failed to meet the March on Washington’s economic demands

New EPI report shows that racial economic disparities have persisted with limited policy focus on racial equity

 EPI News l August 1, 2023

With this month marking 60 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a new Economic Policy Institute report finds that post-civil rights era legislation has largely failed to address widening disparities in wages, wealth, and homeownership for Black Americans.

Key findings include:

  • Racial wage and wealth gaps have persisted. A typical Black worker is paid 23.4% less per hour than a typical white worker, a wider gap than it was in 1973 (22.3%). Meanwhile, the typical white family has eight times as much wealth as the typical Black family.
  • Black workers’ wages have lagged productivity. While productivity broadly increased 61.7% from 1979 to 2020, Black workers’ wages grew only 18.9% over that period.
  • Black homeownership rates are lower now than in 1970. In 1970, the Black home ownership rate was 49.7%. In 2020, that rate was 45%.
  • Black workers’ unionization rates have dropped sharply. Historically, Black workers have had much higher rates of union coverage than white workers—but the gap has narrowed as union coverage rates have declined.
  • Black workers have experienced consistently higher unemployment rates. During the past 50 years, the annual Black unemployment rate has often exceeded 10%, while white workers have never seen an annual unemployment rate above 10%, even during economic downturns.

The report explores the policy demands the Civil Rights Movement championed through the March on Washington and the Kerner Commission. The combined efforts of many moved the U.S. Congress to pass sweeping civil rights legislation to reverse oppressive Jim Crow laws and broadly combat discrimination against people of color. While this movement succeeded in removing key barriers to equal rights under the law, many economic demands were left unmet. Failure to address these has adversely impacted the economic security of people of color and exacerbated many of the long-standing racial disparities in economic outcomes present today.

“Many associate the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. What is often forgotten, however, are the marchers’ urgent calls to raise the minimum wage, build affordable housing, and strengthen voters’ rights—sweeping reforms that could transform American lives. Although we have made strides in racial equity, there are miles to go before King’s dream is a reality,” said Adewale A. Maye, policy and research analyst at EPI and author of the report.

EPI News l July 31, 2023

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Felicia Roberts took an idea gathered a few people to reached into a minority community to highlight the positive, using a minority newspaper the Central Valley Voice. Roberts was joined by her sisters Carolyn Williams, Alleashia Thomas, niece Hermonie Lynn Williams, nephew Ron Williams, cousin Jerald Lester, Jay Slaffey, Greg Savage, Tim Daniels and the late J Denise Fontaine. Each individual played an important role in the birth of the newspapers. Since, then many have stood strong behind the success of the newspapers and its goal to fill a void in the Central Valley community The Central Valley Voice published their 1st issue in November 1991. Its purposed was to highlight the achievements of minorities in the Central Valley. The Voice focuses on the accomplishments of African Americans and Hispanics giving young people role models while diminishing the stereotypical pictures of gangs, crime and violence that permeate the minority communities. Since 1991, the Central Valley Voice has provided an important voice for the minority community throughout the Madera, Merced. Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

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