The Civil War ended King Cotton's reign and replaced it with full-scale industrialization. The Transcontinental Railroad was built, and the conglomerates that would become U.S. Steel and Standard Oil began to be assembled by the Carnegies, Rockefellers and J.P. Morgans. Freed Blacks, however, despite the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, which abolished slavery and granted black men full citizenship with all political rights thereto, remained a subjugated people. The "new birth of freedom" foreseen by Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address was betrayed by a renewed alliance of Northern capitalists, Southern plantation owners and their politician surrogates. The short ten years of Reconstruction, when Black men had been free to conduct themselves as citizens, were inexorably obliterated over the next twenty years by the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow and thousands of lynchings of Black men for any and for no good reason.
Blacks left the South in a mass exodus, termed the Great Migration, that began in the first two decades of the 20th Century and continued for the next fifty years, lured by the promise of jobs in the industrial cities of the North -- Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York -- and the opportunity to escape murderous Southern whites. Their continued segregation from whites in the cities to which they migrated was the price they were obliged to pay for the opportunity of living more prosperous lives and raising families in their own communities. Then came the Great Depression, which hit African-Americans hardest and shattered the illusions they had brought North with them. The post-World War II years brought new prosperity and well-paying jobs, but this, too, proved short-lived. By the late 1960's and into the 70's, the Midwestern U.S. had turned into an industrial wasteland, the infamous Rust Belt, as thousands of jobs in the auto, steel and heavy manufacturing sectors of the economy disappeared. Blacks were once again hardest hit, although white workers were not spared.
William Julius Wilson, while at the U. of Chicago, documented what occurred in Chicago, particularly in the stockyards and meat-packing industry, in The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (1987, 2012), and the adverse impact joblessness had on Black communities and families. August Wilson, in his series of nine plays set in Pittsburgh, similarly portrayed the deteriorating expectations and communities of his Black characters, many of whom worked in the steel mills in and around that city, over the course of the 20th Century. Whatever was lost was replaced not by jobs or resources to re-build communities but by increased social and economic marginalization, particularly for those who were poor and had lost everything.
The loss of those thousands of jobs marked the onset of unrelenting joblessness for African-Americans, particularly Black men, that has only increased over the years. In New York State, in 2014, the official unemployment rate for Black men stood at 17.4%, nearly quadruple the rate for white men. In a related survey published that same year, the Community Service Society of New York found that only 51% of all Black men in the State were actually working. Is this a case of increasingly shiftless Black men disinterested in work, as over 40% of whites believed (NY Times survey, 2012), or is it a consequence of what many critics have termed institutionalized racism, i.e., segregated housing, ineffective schools, discrimination in employment, an incarceration rate for Black men five times that of whites, and a free-market economy with a rapacious zeal for profits?
END OF PART I (REFERENCES TO BE FOUND AT CONCLUSION OF PART III