As the 1970s began, crumbling, urban, black neighborhoods offered the prototypical media images of economic collapse and poverty. Even decades later, boarded-up businesses and ramshackle apartment buildings remained as dim evidence of once-vibrant downtown African American communities. As higher paying jobs became open to blacks in the wake of 1960s civil rights activism, the restructuring of cities and migration of industry to the suburbs denied black laborers the blue-collar jobs that many had previously held. Some African Americans blamed employer discrimination as a central cause of the decline of inner-city neighborhoods and asked if their people would be able to escape the ghettos as had other racial groups. By the end of the twentieth century, black progress could be seen in higher ratios of elected and appointed African American officeholders at the national and local levels, and increased presence in the media, in sports and in the arts, in higher education, and in the business world.
After reading this chapter you should understand the following:
- The disparity and paradox between poverty and progress for African Americans in the late twentieth century
- Periodic intrusions of conservative factions in the American political scene that would reverse aspects of civil rights legislation and de facto application if given the chance
- The artistic output of African Americans in this era and how this output was built upon the civil rights struggle of the last quarter-century of American history
- The internationalist perspective towards the black race as typified in the ending of apartheid in South Africa and the leadership of American forces in the Persian Gulf War by General Colin Powell