§ The American Founding Fathers who often eloquently spoke about freedom and individual liberties, supported slavery, reinforcing the color stigma. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third President justified slavery “by asserting the superiority of whites and inferiority of blacks” while at the time of his death, George Washington (1732-1799), the first President “owned 123 slaves, [and] rented 40… [At the same time] his wife’s estate had [held] 153 [slaves].”
§ Gradually from 1660 to 1776 southern “free” blacks “lost the right to vote, to join militias, to hire white [laborers], and to testify in court” until they also “carried the stigma of the enslaved,” a stigma which ultimately became associated with color and race. As a result “it was difficult for them to obtain property, education, [and] jobs.”
§ A century of discrimination followed the American Civil War (1860-1865). The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights Act of 1875 ruling in 1883 that the 14th Amendment did not prohibit individual discrimination. Thirteen years later, that same court ruled in favor of segregation, the basis of Jim Crow laws, declaring that the south’s “separate but equal” concept was constitutional. Before long, southern blacks were barred from voting, deprived of a quality education (leading to greater socioeconomic disadvantages), from testifying in court cases involving non-black parties, and even from quitting their jobs. One Jim Crow law decreed that blacks “could be arrested and imprisoned for breach of contract” if they were “absent from work” or quit their jobs.
§ During the post Civil War period up to the culmination of the Civil Rights movement with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, blacks were also terrorized by white organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to “ensure submission.” During this era, “violence against African Americans actually became worse in some areas than under slavery [with] 4,742 documented lynchings between 1890 and 1960” and countless undocumented cases.”
§ When comparing mean net worth (the average of everyone’s wealth divided by the number of households) the average black family has less than 17 cents for every dollar the average white family owns.
§ In 2001 the mean value of African American retirement accounts was $12,247 versus the $65,411 figure for whites.
§ “In 2001 only 10% of African Americans owned shares of stock and “for [the] many who did, those shares… were worth very little.” In addition, the mean asset ownership of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs and other financial securities was $18,082 for African Americans versus $146,567 for whites. At the same time, the average black business owned $3,014 in assets versus the $91,913 figure for the average white-owned business. Furthermore, the average value of African American primary residences compared to those whites was $45,476 versus $141,769.