Lesson Plan February 19, 2021

Wealth, Labor, and Mobility



“The Wealth Gap” by Trymaine Lee (pages 82–83)
Module Authors: Kelsey Johnson, Melissa Kanoff, Drew Lewis, Melissa Portes, and Jordan Strudwick

“Today’s racial wealth gap is perhaps the most glaring legacy of American slavery and the violent economic dispossession that followed.”

“‘The major way in which people have an opportunity to accumulate wealth is contingent on the wealth positions of their parents and their grandparents,’ (Duke University professor William A. Darity Jr.) says. ‘To the extent that blacks have the capacity to accumulate wealth, we have not had the ability to transfer the same kinds of resources across generations.’”

Key Names, Dates, and Terms
Redlining, federal policy, state policy, exponential growth, the middle class, suburbs, credit, credit score, creditworthiness, home equity, mortgages, federally-backed mortgages, risk, gentrification, The Poor People’s March, black capitalism, immigration, land ownership, westward expansion, Work Projects Administration, New Deal, the Freedman’s Savings Bank, income vs. wealth, global perspectives, caste, reparations

Higher education, student loan debt, education access, student loan crisis, civil rights, debt forgiveness, government’s role in higher education

Guiding Questions

1. How much money was lost when the Freedman’s Savings Bank “failed” in 1874? What is the value of that amount in today’s currency? How did this loss affect the bank’s Black depositors?

2. How did the Black residents of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, accumulate wealth before the 1921 race massacre?

3. What effect has violent terrorism from white supremacists had on the ability of Black people to build wealth?

4. Geographically, where are Black people most concentrated in the United States, and why?

5. Why are Black Americans ghettoized in similar ways in cities across the United States?

6. Identify factors that influence the percentage of Black landowners in the United States compared to the percentage of white landowners. 

7. Discuss the effect of the subprime mortgage lending crisis of 2008 on Black families and its impact on white families.

8. What is the average difference in public funding given to predominantly Black school districts compared to predominantly white school districts? Identify factors that influence any difference. 

9. What effect does going to an underfunded school have on a person’s ability to build wealth? What effect does one’s parent’s wealth have on one’s ability to build wealth?

10. How much does debt from higher education loans contribute to the wealth gap for Black Americans? How does student loan debt adversely affect Black Americans who are seeking jobs or building wealth?

11. What is the average net worth of a Black family where a household member has a college degree? What is the average net worth of a white family where household members do not hold a college degree? Identify factors that influence these statistics.

12. Identify factors that influence the percentage of Black people that are underbanked compared to the percentage of underbanked white people. 

13. What is the gender pay gap between Black women and men? What is the gender pay gap between white women and men? Identify factors that influence these statistics.

14. What is the racial wealth gap? What is the racial income gap? Identify factors that influence these statistics.

15. Identify factors that influence the global Black-white wealth gap. 

16. Should the wealth gap be considered a civil rights issue? If so, how can it be remedied by our legislature, or by cases heard by the Supreme Court?

17. What effects do higher rates of interaction with the criminal justice system or a criminal record have on the ability to build wealth?

Additional Resources

Growing Inequality and Racial Economic Gaps by Thomas W. Mitchell
“The Wealth Gap: Through the Lens of Governmental Policies and Racial Inequality in Housing” by Tara Carone

Anderson, Claud. Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice. Powernomics Corporation of America, 1994. 
Baradaran, Mehrsa. The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap. Belknap Press, 2017.
Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright, 2017.
Williams, Eric. Capitalism & Slavery. University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Films & Videos: 
Explained | Racial Wealth Gap published by Netflix
How America Created Its Shameful Wealth Gap| Robert Reich published by Robert Reich
Richard Rothstein, “The Color of Law” (with Ta-Nehisi Coates) published by Politics and Prose
The Color of Money published by Economic Policy Institute 
The Subprime Swindle: Economic War on Black America published by The Nation
13th. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Kandoo Films, 2016. 
Educator Notes:

The 1619 Project Law School Initiative is a partnership of the Pulitzer Center, Howard University School of Law, and University of Miami School of Law. The initiative is also part of the Racial Justice initiative by the Squire Patton Boggs Foundation and its Deans’ Circle. You can find more educational resources at www.pulitzercenter.org/1619

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Racial Justice

Racial Justice