Consider what it must have been to be an African American in the 1960’s.

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In some respects, life for African Americans was considerably better in the 1960s than it had been in previous decades. The civil rights movement was rapidly gaining ground and had made significant advances, both legal and political, in its long-standing campaign for racial equality. Segregation had been struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education (1954); the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 ensured the federal enforcement of civil rights at the state level, where violations were most prevalent.

By the 1960s, African Americans had come a long way, but persistent problems remained. Although legal and political equality had now been largely achieved, there was still huge inequality between the races in terms of education, job opportunities, and life chances. For instance, if you were an African American citizen in 1968, you were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as a white American. Moreover, the median household income of African American families was less than 60% of that of their white counterparts.

By whichever measure you wish to use—the poverty rate, the infant mortality rate, incarceration figures—African Americans on the whole tended to be significantly worse off than the white majority. The huge chasm that opened up in the 1960s between white and black America generated massive social and economic problems, which, as the enclosed report illustrates, are not just still with us today but in many cases actually getting worse.

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