Class as a factor in the lives of African Americans in the twentieth century created mixed reactions. In a society that in some ways generally regards itself as classless, many Americans regard economic inequality as a social problem that needs fixing—through government programs or, preferably, individual initiative. For African Americans, the massive impact of race and racism seemed to render all blacks victims of white prejudice. W. E. B. Du Bois's dictum that the color line would be the major problem of the twentieth century had the effect of underscoring that African...
Class as a factor in the lives of African Americans in the twentieth century created mixed reactions. In a society that in some ways generally regards itself as classless, many Americans regard economic inequality as a social problem that needs fixing—through government programs or, preferably, individual initiative. For African Americans, the massive impact of race and racism seemed to render all blacks victims of white prejudice. W. E. B. Du Bois's dictum that the color line would be the major problem of the twentieth century had the effect of underscoring that African Americans were behind a racial veil apart from white Americans: material conditions made this analysis convincing. Until the late twentieth century, few African Americans could be described as wealthy, and fewer owned the means of production.By the early twenty-first century, for the first time, there were significant numbers of blacks with money and power. In addition to wealthy and conspicuous athletes and entertainers, in 2007 three African Americans were chief operating officers of Fortune 500 companies, and several African Americans, including the former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, owned companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars. From 2003 to 2007, Stanley O'Neal, the grandson of a slave, served as chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president of Merrill Lynch, the world's largest investment firm. Even during the two administrations of George W. Bush, a conservative Republican president, the African Americans Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice each held the prominent post of secretary of state. Rice was widely considered a future presidential candidate, and after only partially completing his first term in the Senate, Barack Obama was elected the first African-American President: such political ascension suggests the relative rise of African Americans generally.Such well-known blacks are only the most visible beneficiaries of improved racial mores. In the aftermath of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, many blacks have now moved solidly into the middle class. As the United States has at least superficially distanced itself from historic legal and social discrimination, by the twenty-first century blacks were found routinely in local, state, and federal bureaucracies, as elected officials, in the professions, and in businesses. In literature and the arts, blacks are an important presence.Class. Strivers’ Row, a section of late-nineteenth-century townhouses in Harlem, New York City, 1973. Strivers’ Row is known for the upper-middle-class black professionals, performers, and artists who live there. Famous African Americans who have lived on Strivers’ Row include the musicians Eubie Blake, Fletcher Henderson, and W. C. Handy; the performers Stepin Fetchit and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson; and the congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Photograph by Chester Higgins. © Chester Higgins Jr.Class as a Marker.Despite these gains, class has become an even greater marker in black America than ever before. The sociologist William Julius Wilson has argued that there are now two classes within black America: the middle class and an impoverished class. He points out that the biggest class of African Americans is the middle class, and that the percentage of black children living at or beneath the poverty line is almost the same in the early twenty-first century as it was on the day in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. It may be argued that in fact there are four classes: an elite, the middle class, the lower-middle or working class, and a sizable class that is severely economically disadvantaged and is often stigmatized by felony convictions.The black intellectual leadership is at odds on the causes and solutions of African American social inequality. Wilson contends that access to higher-paying jobs is increasingly based upon education and that relations between racial groups are based more on the character of economic relations than on race. Now that the United States has opened social mobility to educated and well-placed blacks, those with the requisite skills can advance, while those without them are stuck far behind. Criticizing this view are scholars who point to the immense differences that still exist between white and black Americans in educational, economic, and political power; these scholars maintain that race remains, a century after Du Bois, the unifying factor for African Americans.There are major disagreements about how to improve the lot of the poorest, least privileged blacks. The entertainer Bill Cosby and scholars such as Manning Marable differ on the importance of class among black Americans. Cosby tends to blame African Americans at the bottom of the steep American socioeconomic pyramid for their own troubles. Disadvantaged blacks must work harder; be smarter about acquiring the skills, education, habits, and values of accomplished blacks and whites; and avoid outwardly self-indulgent fascinations with drugs, sports, and “street” music. Marable, in contrast, sees class as a bold interpretive and political framework that identifies interrelated structures of inequality and prejudice, and he calls for a massive restructuring of dominant American institutions. The roots of the disagreement between these two perspectives lie far back in African American conceptions of class.Historically, black Americans did not use material conditions to create ranks. Before the civil rights movement, other, more subtle measures differentiated elite blacks from poorer ones. One reason is that there were very few blacks with economic independence. In the early twentieth century, most African Americans were agricultural workers. Across the American South, where the bulk of African Americans lived, more than 90 percent of African Americans were farmers or farm managers, while slightly less than 5 percent were farm and general laborers. The vast majority were sharecroppers who worked small plots of land for a few years, then moved to another piece of land nearby. That mobility did not translate into prosperity but rather into debt peonage. Within that semi-servitude, the church and local taverns served as cultural centers. Consumer acquisitions might, with great effort, include radios, phonograph players, and records, and, with substantial savings, a car. Telephones were common only by 1950, and even by then, electricity was not a given.Early in the Great Migration to cities blacks unintentionally encountered class conflict. Knowing little about unionization and strikes and suspicious of white workers, some African Americans were used as strikebreakers, a tactic that bolstered racial enmity. In New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, as well as in smaller cities such as Milwaukee, employers actively recruited African Americans as strikebreakers. Occasionally such replacement workers continued to hold jobs after the strike ended, but in Milwaukee, for example, strikebreakers in the steel industry all lost employment in the city's blast furnaces and rolling mills within a short time. Many within the black leadership also counseled strikebreakers to keep separate from white workers. Later, as black workers became more aware of their misuse, they, too, formed unions and attempted to collaborate with whites going on strike. At the same time the National Urban League, a black business-oriented organization, helped recruit black strikebreakers into the 1920s to disrupt white work actions. The league showed a similar dislike, however, of black efforts at unionization.Unhappy with their lives, African Americans migrated from rural regions to southern and northern cities in search of better economic opportunity, protection from white terrorism, and stronger communities. Between 1920 and 1930 the black population of Chicago doubled as nearly sixty thousand newcomers arrived from the South. Houston, Texas, experienced a similar gain, as did Detroit, New York City, and Newark, New Jersey. In the South, blacks moved into Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, and New Orleans in sizable numbers. Only Charleston, South Carolina, saw a decline in its black population. These patterns were amplified by the mid-twentieth century. Blacks accounted for more than 40 percent of the populations of Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, by 1950.Blacks living and working in the cities were ultimately successful in quashing the more noxious types of segregation. Through the inspired efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and such organizations as the NAACP, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and others, and with the valiant contributions of ordinary black and white people, the United States slowly swept away denigrating racial prohibitions in transportation, hotels, public buildings, and streets. Perhaps most important, the vote and educational systems were regained and reopened to all.Social and political opportunity did not translate into economic opportunity. As blacks became the most urbanized of Americans, they remained disproportionately working class or poorer. Most of the job opportunities arose in areas such as the service industry, an area that had historically been open to them. Scholars have contended that in fact blacks who migrated in the later twentieth century arrived in urban promised lands barren of opportunities: industrial and white-collar jobs moved into the suburbs by the 1960s, moved into the white-dominated intermountain western states, and then moved overseas in the 1990s and early twenty-first century. As visible signs of racism declined, economic opportunity also declined. An example in the early twenty-first century is the decision by General Motors and other automobile companies to close several U.S. plants, disproportionately affecting black union workers. As a result, these industrial workers lost the trappings of the middle class that they had hoped to pass along to their children, and they lost mobility accordingly.The black middle class in the SouthIn the early twentieth century the black middle class in the South was very small. Middle-class blacks in Birmingham formed social clubs, fraternal orders, and churches in an effort to build community and separate themselves from their poorer brethren. But in the segregated South, to maintain total separation was economically unfeasible. Black businessmen who faced competition for African American customers from white entrepreneurs espoused the rhetoric of economic nationalism to encourage race loyalty among potential black clients. Most middle-class blacks adhered to Booker T. Washington's philosophies of self-help, economic independence, and racial solidarity. Washington nurtured close relationships with black leaders in Birmingham and other southern cities. These elite blacks named their businesses after him, met regularly in the evenings to discuss his work and writings, and flocked to hear him speak at local churches.Membership in Birmingham's black middle class translated into leadership positions. A combination of ego gratification and civic enhancement inspired members of the black middle class to work on improving race relations, particularly with paternalistic and somewhat liberal whites. Whites’ financial support was critical for black personal advancement and to the growth of black economic and social institutions. Ties with rich whites, along with the constant threat of terrorism from whites, created a subdued, quiescent black middle class. Rather than rail against racial injustice or violence, they concentrated on the elements of Washington's philosophy. Although whites and blacks working together at times helped ameliorate the worst conditions, in the early decades of the twentieth century there were few if any real attempts to change the system of segregation.The black elite in Washington, D.CDespite the fierce legal and social limitations for blacks in an America defined by the harsh Jim Crow restrictions, a tiny black elite clung tenuously to its position. Washington, D.C., was regarded as the center for the black elite. Washington's so-called Black 400 were in fact a few hundred of the 75,000 blacks living in the nation's capital. Many of this upper crust were several generations removed from slavery and came to Washington from other major cities and from rural areas. Given the prospect of white-collar jobs and government sinecures, educational possibilities, and the existence of a black social group that shared the same values, tastes, and self-conceptions, leading blacks from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, and New Orleans gravitated to the city. Intermarriage between families of the Black 400 gave the city a nationwide network of social and blood relations.The John F. Cook family was perhaps the most distinguished in black Washington, D.C. Cook established private schools for blacks in the mid-nineteenth century. His son George F. T. Cook was the superintendent of the Washington black public schools for a quarter of a century after 1883. Another son, John F. Cook Jr., was a trustee of Howard University for thirty-five years and served as the tax collector for Washington. With an estate derived from his real estate interests, the younger John F. Cook was the wealthiest black in Washington. George W. Cook was registrar of Howard University for ten years and worked for the university for four decades. Other members of the Cook family served on the Washington boards of education and trade and held prominent positions as lawyers, physicians, and teachers.Other Washington black elites could trace their ancestry back to the abolitionist movement. The Grimké family, known for its efforts in racial uplift, included Archibald, an author and lecturer, and his brother, Francis J., a minister. Charlotte Forten Grimké was Francis's wife and the granddaughter of the famed sailmaker James Forten of Philadelphia. Archibald's daughter, Angelina Weld Grimké, was named after her white great-aunt, Angelina Grimké, who married the abolitionist Theodore Weld.Prominent black Washington families had distinguished members in each generation. Mary Ann Shadd was the most visible member of a well-known family dating back several generations. Shadd worked as a teacher in Pennsylvania and New York and then spent a period living in Canada, where she founded the Provincial Freeman, the first newspaper edited by a black woman in North America. Later she moved back to Washington and taught at the Lincoln Industrial School and in 1883 earned a law degree from Howard University.Black Washingtonians were prominent in politics. Frederick Douglass was of course the most famous, and his home in Anacostia attracted many of the city's elite. His sons by his first marriage, Lewis and Charles, were deeply involved in the local gentry. P. B. S. Pinchback was formerly the acting governor of Louisiana; after his move to Washington in 1893 he became part of this gentry, along with his daughter, Nina. Her son, the famed novelist Jean Toomer, portrayed the local elite in his novel Cane (1923). Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, the first black U.S. senator to complete a full term, stayed in Washington after the end of Reconstruction and married well, to a society woman named Josephine Wilson. Their son, Roscoe Conkling Bruce—named after the senator who escorted Bruce to his seat in the Senate—went to Harvard and then became an assistant superintendent of “colored” schools. Another family, the Syphaxes, claimed descent from Martha Washington's grandson and were active in education.Membership in prominent institutions anchored upper-class black Washington. Education was important to the Washington black elite. Most people in this group sent their children to either the black Preparatory High School or, later, to Spingarn High School. Then the children went on to historically black universities such as Howard, which educated large swaths of the black elite of Washington and other cities. Other favored historically black universities were Fisk, Atlanta, and Wilberforce. Many students in this black elite chose to go to receptive white colleges such as Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard, Oberlin, and Yale.Church membership was considered critical. Most upper-class blacks chose Saint Luke's Episcopal Church, which had become more progressive under the leadership of the famed abolitionist and intellectual Alexander Crummell. The more conservative blacks attended Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where John W. Stevenson held a controversial position after 1880. His fund-raising and emphasis on ostentatious architecture irritated some members, who shifted to the Plymouth Congregational Church. Plymouth was led by Sterling N. Brown, father of the poet of the same name. Another favorite congregation of the elite was the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.Social settings were important. The black elite formed a Grand Lodge of the Free Masons in 1848, and innumerable prominent figures were officers. In time, Washington blacks contributed to a black YMCA, and they were frequent participants in other clubs. They gave money to the Freedman's Hospital and used its medical staff extensively. As was the case among elite blacks across the nation, college alumni often continued their undergraduate memberships in such black fraternities as Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, and Omega Psi Phi. The major black sorority was Alpha Kappa Alpha.For black elites from the 1880s to the present, time spent at the right summer place has also been critical. There have been geographically accessible favorites such as Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Colton, Maryland, for Washington elites; but Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, have also been the top attractions for wealthy blacks from across the nation.Elite blacks in Washington were deeply interested in their history. In addition to valorizing free-black ancestry and deifying historically significant blacks such as Douglass and Crummell, they created, under Crummell's leadership, the American Negro Academy, an early forerunner of the Washington-based Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) headed by Carter G. Woodson. History was an important component of the racial uplift movement; through history, elite blacks could show their allegiance with poorer blacks while maintaining a social distance from them.A few blacks, most notably the Cook family, had holdings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because the Jim Crow laws insisted on separate institutions for blacks and whites, there were black members of virtually every field of work: blacks had to provide for themselves doctors, lawyers, shops, and everything else. Being an undertaker became a popular occupation, as did photography.The black elite elsewhereAs Washington, D.C., led, so elite black society elsewhere followed, but there were significant variations. Elite blacks in Charleston, South Carolina, had a reputation for being excessively snobby and color conscious. Often descendants of antebellum free blacks, elite Charleston people of color lived in a world of their own in the late nineteenth century. They lived closeted in such institutions as Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, Avery Normal Institution, the Brown Fellowship, and the Friendly Moralist Society. Charleston also exported elite blacks to Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Washington, and Boston. Wherever they went, however, these scions of black Charleston revered their origins and nearly always returned to the city to find a spouse.New Orleans rivaled Charleston in the free-black origins of its black elite, but its blacks had the additional benefit of ancient bloodlines from free white French and Spanish people and were termed Creoles. Such Creoles regarded themselves as more French than African American and distanced themselves from their poorer black brethren; they included some slave masters who had fought for the South during the Civil War. In post-Reconstruction New Orleans, racism caused whites to equate the Creoles with darker-skinned blacks; still, Creoles’ French origins allowed for a defensive distinction. As in Washington, the New Orleans black elite prized education and sent their children to private and even public schools that discriminated against anyone seen as too dark. Jim Crow pushed Creoles in New Orleans into political action, though their efforts invariably failed. As a result, some in the New Orleans black elite lapsed into an apparently pleasure-based way of life, which to some seemed to mask an economic dynamic that lagged behind that of other southern cities.In the North, urban black elites could trace their lineages back over a century. In Philadelphia the descendants of James Forten automatically qualified as elite. More recent arrivals from Santo Domingo and Haiti included such families as the de Baptists, the Le Counts, and the Augustins. Others included émigrés from southern cities and, later, well-educated arrivals such as Dr. Edwin Clarence Howard, a Harvard-trained physician, and his wife, Joan Imogene, a graduate of New York University. One family, the Bustills, came from nearby New Jersey and could claim multigenerational achievements back to 1732.Elite blacks in Philadelphia, with the possible exception of the Forten family, were hampered by racial discrimination in the trades. Many earned their fortunes through catering or in professional but lower-paying jobs as ministers and teachers. As Du Bois noted in 1899 in his classic study The Philadelphia Negro, education and breeding had to count more than money. At the same time, the Philadelphia black gentry were more interested in fellow gentry in New York and Boston than they were in local lower-class blacks.As in Philadelphia, high-ranking New Yorkers could trace their families far back into national history. Members of the New York African Society of Mutual Relief and Saint Philip's Episcopal Church, along with those who had ties with the Dutch families, were considered elite. Elite black New Yorkers seemed to forget that slavery had existed in their city and even avoided celebrating Emancipation Day. Additional elite New Yorkers were more recent arrivals who had come from the South and from Santo Domingo. But in a city where capitalism and ostentatious wealth were common, few black New Yorkers had much money at all, though a little was more than most local blacks had. Following the example of Washington, D.C., most elite black New Yorkers preferred private, isolated, and refined ceremonies and events. After the Draft Riots of 1863, Brooklyn emerged as a home for elite blacks.Scholars of the black elites of America's major cities generally emphasize the elites’ aloofness and distaste for mingling with lower-class blacks. In general, superior airs were based more on style than substance. The elites’ combined wealth in 1901 of around $700 million was less than that of the nation's first billion-dollar corporation, U.S. Steel, organized in 1901 with very few if any black workers.The black elite and capitalismAs Booker T. Washington and Du Bois engaged in their famous feud over the development of a black citizenry and black enterprise in a society divided by race, it was Washington's portrait that could be found in the homes and businesses of black America. Washington's creation of the National Negro Business League in 1900 charted the road to success through industrial development for and by blacks. Du Bois—who, along with many northern blacks, disliked Washington's politics of accommodation to white racism—generally agreed with the economic approach. But unlike Washington, Du Bois insisted upon the need for a liberal education. The philosophies of Washington and Du Bois met in the creation of black banks and insurance companies that became the focal point for creating a series of black-controlled businesses in a racially divided society. Soon, in transportation and leisure enterprises, in real estate and construction, in the extractive industries, in manufacturing, and in health care and beauty aids, blacks were able to create solid businesses that catered to a black clientele. Outside of a few nightclubs in Harlem, no black business would think of excluding ordinary blacks from their customer bases.With the development of a black capitalism, the African American elite began to change dramatically. In New York City the black elite was joined by the arrival of thousands of newcomer African Americans in the 1910s and 1920s. What occurred in New York during the blossoming of black cultural expression in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s reflected changes elsewhere. Although the historic elite remained, upstarts from the worlds of real estate, entertainment, the arts, and later sports gradually supplanted them. As white New Yorkers traveled uptown to “slum,” musicians such as Duke Ellington became famous and wealthy. The boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and later the baseball player Jackie Robinson gained elite status through their fame and instant wealth. As New York liberalized in the post–World War II era, the actors Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier paved the way for other famed blacks. The civil rights movement spawned significant black New Yorkers such as Kenneth Clark, while the novelist Ralph Ellison gained instant acceptance from his novel Invisible Man, published in 1952, and his genteel, cosmopolitan behavior.The Turn of the Twenty-first Century.Black Hollywood stars were few at first, and only in the 1990s were the leading men Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman able to command top salaries. Even more impressive, of course, were black entertainers who could maximize their talents in myriad ways. Here Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby are illustrative. By the 1990s black athletes competed equally with whites for enormous annual salaries. Notable among highly paid black athletes were the basketball star Michael Jordan, the baseball players Barry Bonds and Derek Jeter, and the golfer Tiger Woods. Few were able to sustain their incomes after their playing careers ended, though the example of Dave Bing, a basketball star who founded a large steel company, is instructive. This democratization of fame created a national elite black society. To such famous names as Jordan, Winfrey, and Denzel Washington can be added the names of the internationally famous novelist Toni Morrison and the historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.Still, as in the past, black capitalism and its corresponding elite relied on racial solidarity. Major black capitalists including S. B. Fuller, Arthur G. Gaston, John H. Johnson, and Berry Gordy Jr. all became multimillionaires selling products to a largely black audience. Such men had varying political philosophies, but it is unlikely that they felt disaffection from the black masses. They had little choice. Integration did not affect all elite blacks, and many retained membership in their own elite organizations.Older social organizations have grown even larger. By 2000, Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest black fraternity, boasted more than 150,000 members in more than 750 chapters. On its roster of members from the past century were such names as the Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall; Martin Luther King Jr.; the Atlanta mayors Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson; Du Bois; the Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens; the Ebony magazine founder and publishing magnate John H. Johnson; the National Urban League presidents Hugh Price, Lester Granger, and Whitney Young; the congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.; and the New York City mayor David Dinkins.Elite blacks around the country have maintained their status through interlocking children's groups such as Jack and Jill of America; through women's groups such as the Links and the Smart Set; and through summers at Sag Harbor on Long Island and at Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. Men joined the Boulé, the Guardsmen, or local branches of 100 Black Men.The black middle and lower classesThe contours of the black middle class have been part assimilationist and part nationalist. Many blacks have shared with many whites an appetite for the bourgeois joys of suburban homes, large televisions and cars, and a devotion to sports. They have shared with elite blacks and whites strong support for education, church, and community. After the United States removed its obnoxious racial laws, blacks and whites still kept social distances outside work. African American neighborhoods and suburbs abounded. Not unlike newer immigrant groups, blacks have displayed a powerful devotion to memories of the ancestral homeland. If they do not actually visit Africa, they recall it in rituals, clothing, and names.What was sometimes referred to as black “underclass” culture did not emphasize education, the pursuit of which was sometimes derisively regarded as “acting white.” Sports became the principal public method of social mobility, even though its triumphs are typically rare and fleeting. For some young people, gang membership replaced fraternal orders and self-help groups.Black musicBlack popular music, which in the 1960s and 1970s produced some of the best American music with a romantic theme, changed in the 1990s to a tougher rendition of the blues mixed with a kind of street poetry known as the “dozens,” in which competing chanters strive to outwit their opponents with taunts, threats, and superior rhymes. Throughout the 1990s rap and hip hop often glorified gangster behavior to the extent that jail terms sometimes seemed to become almost requisite parts of a musician's résumé. Assassination even seemed to bolster careers, according to some critics. Such music could not disguise the tragedy of sacrificed lives.Blacks and imprisonmentAs a result of the growth of prisons as an industry, harsher patterns of sentencing, racism, and the merciless war on drugs, blacks are disproportionably represented in prisons. In Alabama, blacks are 26 percent of the population but 62 percent of prison inmates. In New York State, blacks are 16 percent of the population but 55 percent of its inmates. In Maryland, blacks are 28 percent of the population but 73 percent of inmates. The effects of this reach far beyond time in jail. The poorest class of African Americans includes many men and women who are stigmatized by felony convictions that incarcerate them for decades or push them far behind other Americans in political, social, and economic potentials. Sizable numbers of black men in southern states cannot vote because of felony convictions. Legal problems hinder many more from finding secure employment.Black Attitudes toward Class and Race.According to the theory that class is more important than race, middle-class blacks should feel separate from poorer blacks and more akin to middle-class whites. Recent studies conclude, however, that both lower- and middle-class blacks have greater race consciousness than they do class consciousness. Most blacks still feel that race is a very significant factor in determining their life chances and opportunities. Despite widespread claims that the United States no longer allows prejudice, middle-class blacks find themselves confronted with racial discrimination, racial barriers, and blocked opportunities. Lower-class blacks face similar if higher barriers but are more likely to place emphasis on protests, social pressures, and social actions to eliminate racial discrimination. Middle- and lower-class blacks continue to see racial discrimination as a genuine obstacle and believe that blacks with the most education and economic means should help less fortunate blacks.For lower-class blacks there is a high likelihood that rage, violence, and criminal behavior will be met with harsh punishments. The lack of real discussion about reforming of sentencing laws for small-scale drug sales and use even in a liberal state such as New York is indicative of how punitively American society responds to its economically less privileged black members.As the optimistic era of racial integration faded in a conservative political climate, racial solidarity and the support networks that blacks have built among themselves appear to be more important than the often solitary gains that highly visible blacks in politics, entertainment, and business have made for themselves. In an era in which significant numbers of young black men and women are stigmatized by the judicial system, it is unlikely that even the wealthy, prosperous black elite can remain aloof and distance themselves through class.
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