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Because these are facts the media seldom report, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public.Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects.We know only this: some gains are probably attributable to race-conscious educational and employment policies.The number of black college and university professors more than doubled between 19; the number of physicians tripled; the number of engineers almost quadrupled; and the number of attorneys increased more than sixfold.And through much of the 1950s wages rose steadily and unemployment was low.Thus by 1960 only one out of seven black men still labored on the land, and almost a quarter were in white-collar or skilled manual occupations.And yet, in reality, blacks who consider themselves to be middle class outnumber those with incomes below the poverty line by a wide margin.A Fifty-Year March out of Poverty Fifty years ago most blacks were indeed trapped in poverty, although they did not reside in inner cities.
And their numbers would have grown without preferences, the historical record strongly suggests.
Another 24 percent had semiskilled factory jobs that meant membership in the stable working class, while the proportion of black women working as servants had been cut in half.
Even those who did not move up into higher-ranking jobs were doing much better. From 1940 to 1970, black men cut the income gap by about a third, and by 1970 they were earning (on average) roughly 60 percent of what white men took in.
As already noted, six out of ten African-American women were household servants who, driven by economic desperation, often worked 12-hour days for pathetically low wages.
Segregation in the South and discrimination in the North did create a sheltered market for some black businesses (funeral homes, beauty parlors, and the like) that served a black community barred from patronizing “white” establishments. Beginning in the 1940s, however, deep demographic and economic change, accompanied by a marked shift in white racial attitudes, started blacks down the road to much greater equality.
When Gunnar Myrdal published An American Dilemma in 1944, most blacks lived in the South and on the land as laborers and sharecroppers.