How Did Black People Make Money After Slavery?

Tenant farmer with newborn child
Leslie Taylor-Grover
May 24, 2021

After Reconstruction, our people were determined to use our skills to build wealth for our families and future generations. And we were very successful! But there was something sinister going on.

Our former captors were devastated – because most of them had NO skills. The poor whites who did have skills competed with our people for jobs. They weren’t any more willing to clean houses or pull plows than we were! So they did what scared racists usually do.

Instead of working like we did, they used violence to scare us, but failed. So then they did something that kept us from out-earning them and building wealth – something that continues today.

They instituted laws and codes that made it more likely we would be incarcerated, created a lopsided credit system through sharecropping, and worked together to run skilled Black people out of their towns and communities!

By sheer grit, we were on track to build Black wealth faster than whites because of our skills and our resilience – yet white violence and racist laws thwarted our opportunities. 

We should never accept lies about who we are or what we’re capable of. Each time we start a business or contract out our skills, we build the power to support our own economies – and resist their barriers.

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