Policies that Inform
Present Day Disparities

A Legacy of Disparities

The current patterns of racial inequity are a legacy of the nation's past when federal and local laws made the participation and prosperity of people of color nearly impossible. Federally sanctioned housing discrimination maintained neighborhood whiteness by restricting where people of color could live. Laws like the Social Security Act of 1935 helped millions of workers enter the middle class, but excluded many people of color, and thus the ability to accumulate wealth. These government practices were bolstered by local laws and customs that extended segregation to schools, parks, hospitals, restaurants, and other public and private spaces. The residual effects are still in force.


The systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector through the selective raising of prices.

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GI Bill of 1944

Signed into law by President Roosevelt, the GI Bill provided federal assistance to veterans in the form of housing, unemployment and educational benefits. However, politicians designed the distribution of benefits to limit options for Black service members.

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Social Security Act 1935

The policy was intended to protect families from loss of income due to the death or disability of a primary breadwinner due to work related incidents, and to offer assistance via public welfare. However, due to longstanding discrimination in employment Black workers were often paid in cash or “off-the-books” making them ineligible for these social insurance programs.

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 Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

When the Federal minimum wage was established under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, it purposely excluded many African American workers. Agriculture and most service workers, who are predominantly African American, were exempted from labor law protections.

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Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. African Americans were denied  the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.

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