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The black/white wealth gap : the transgenerational effects of post-reconstruction sharecropping and racial systems on African Americans today Chandra, Michelle Veena


The purpose of this study was to investigate how sharecropping systems, a form of racialized agriculture, instituted in the Post-Reconstruction era has had a profound impact on the inability of many African Americans to generate and pass down wealth to successive generations lending to the sizable gap in wealth between whites and blacks (as well as between blacks) in America today. Another aim was to find out how systematic anti-black racism, particularly during Jim Crow, aided in denying a substantial number of southern blacks from entering into the labour market and engaging in the white American ideal of property ownership by re-asserting a white hegemonic order reminiscent of the antebellum period. Another objective was to trace the effects of the Great Migration (1910-1970), the northward and westward migration of close to 8 million blacks out of the South, that occurred as a result of this systemic racism. It was found that the late move of black men out of agriculture and into other areas of the labour market, in addition to the persistent racism that upheld sharecropping systems in the South, severely hampered the ability of many African Americans from building and passing down wealth holdings to their children, helping to explain some of the staggering wealth discrepancies that we see today. Furthermore, the results of the study indicated that some blacks, particularly in Durham, North Carolina, benefited by the anti-black racism in the South by creating a black clientele in predominantly black neighbourhoods where whites did not want to set up shop, allowing some blacks entry into the coveted middle class. The effects of the Great Migration did not benefit all, however, in that it also created clusters of blacks in northern urban areas who faced increasing anti-black racism and exclusion from the marketplace, lending to the creation of a lower middle class and an impoverished underclass. The principle conclusion was that in order to understand present day inequalities among African Americans, there must be a historical analysis that is sensitive to the transgenerational effects of sharecropping, Jim Crow and institutionalized racism.

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