Black poverty: past and future

by James P. Smith

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This paper was originally published as an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on July 25, 1985. It reviews the progress that has been made in reducing poverty among black Americans since 1940. The author suggests that among the reasons for the dramatic emergence of the black middle class in recent years were the movement of blacks from Southern agricultural areas to Northern cities, the civil rights activism of the 1960s, and the "safety net" of federal programs. But the dominant explanation is the improvement in black education. Further long-term reductions in black poverty depend on improving the quality of black schools, an issue that is not being addressed by the renewed interest in excellence in schools.

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