Title VII in Economic-Historical Perspective

Source: Gavin Wright, Labor Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 11 no 3, Fall 2014
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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 fully deserves its status as a watershed achievement in American political and social history, and Title VII merits full marks as a landmark in national economic history. Enforcement of Title VII generated major economic gains for African Americans, advances that for the most part have been sustained over time. In drawing lessons from this historical record, however, it must be recognized that the successes reflected a specific set of channels in a particular historical context. The primary driving forces were grass-roots mobilization for racial justice and pressure from all three branches of the federal government. Most of the gains were realized in the South, reflecting the low starting point in that region’s transition from decades of Jim Crow segregation as well as the organizational cohesion descended from the civil rights movement. It is far from clear that the same or similar approaches can be effective in confronting racial and class inequalities in the twenty-first century….