The Best American History Essays 2008

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Two and a half centuries of slavery and another hundred years of pervasive discrimination had left deep imprints on all American institutions.

Every industry that employed African Americans had developed its own variant of entrenched occupational segregation.

The Congressional Black Caucus was only the best-publicized and most influential of these.

Created in 1969 by Shirley Chisholm (D-NY, 1924-2005) and others, it joined together a new critical mass of African American representatives as it enabled them to speak with a common voice on issues of concern to their constituents.

As African Americans gained new access to white-dominated institutions, the freedom struggle moved inside from the streets.

On college campuses, black students fought for and won the creation of Afro-American Studies programs and financial aid policies that would allow children of lower-income families to get college educations.The housing markets of every major metropolitan area bore the marks of decades of restrictive covenants and real estate red-lining, and of postwar white flight to homogenous suburbs.School systems, honoring those dividing lines and funded by unequal property taxes, systematically underserved black children.In the military, one of the largest employers of African Americans, affirmative action and other policies produced one of the most racially equitable workplaces in the nation—indeed, the only one in which whites routinely have black supervisors.In just about every occupation, from auto work to librarianship, black caucuses arose to create a “safe space” where members would no longer be lonely “tokens”; they could raise consciousness about white privilege and organize for fair treatment and other institutional changes.In the North as well as the South, they left black youth ill-prepared for an emerging labor market that demanded ever-higher levels of education to achieve economic security.Rather, as the mechanization of southern cotton picking and demise of sharecropping led millions of migrants to head to the cities of the North and West from the 1940s through the 1960s, hopes of good jobs met the reality of vast structural unemployment due to automation and later de-industrialization, and declining urban tax bases due to suburbanization.His current book project is "John Steinbeck's America, 1930-1968: A Cultural History." He co-edits The Modern American West book series (UP Arizona).Professor Wrobel is also a dedicated promoter of partnerships between the academy and the schools and has participated in and directed numerous K-12 teacher institutes and workshops since 2000.The new stage of struggle also saw more active coalition-building with other groups affected by discrimination and inequality.Blacks and Jews had worked together in the early postwar decades to secure anti-discrimination measures.

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