September 19, 2021

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Economics of the Great Migration

Editor’s Note: Susan Sherry is the corporate administrator of the UD Center for Business Education and Entrepreneurship at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.

During the great migration between 1910 and 1970, six million black Americans from southern states traveled north and west in the United States to find better lives for themselves and their families. What they saw upon arrival were barriers ranging from income inequality to discriminatory housing policies, many of which persist to this day.

University of Delaware graduate Brett Burkey, director of education at the Florida Council on Economic Education, guided social studies teachers in Delaware through the economic push and pull factors that lead to social studies in his webinar, The Great Migration and the Economics of Race led to this movement. The webinar was part of UDs Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship‘s (CEEE) current series of seminars providing resources for Delaware K-12 educators to bring into their classrooms.

“The social problems of race and inequality in business are an essential part of any business curriculum that is culturally responsive and inclusive,” said Scott Bacon, coordinator and moderator of the CEEE program for the event. “Our goal in delivering this workshop is to provide teachers with an opportunity to deepen their awareness and understanding of these topics and to bring these quality resources back into their classes so that Delaware students can learn more about the economics of the breed. ”

Burkey, CEEE graduate in 2009 Master of Arts in Business Education and Entrepreneurship for Educators Program, examined the factors that drove so many black Americans to leave the South. With the benefit of having access to economic data brought to light by the Black Lives Matter movement, he conducted extensive research and amassed resources that spanned 150 years, a wider span from the reconstruction in 1870 to the present day. Burkey created a comprehensive bank of resources for secondary school teachers to help them effectively engage students and bring to life the social and economic impact of this era of US history. Ultimately, teachers could choose to use these materials to design a curriculum that was most suitable for their students. The study allowed students to analyze past events and learn about lasting effects that continue to affect our nation to this day.

“This one topic could be taught year-round and appeal to both history, geography and economics teachers. It teaches about people migrating in search of income and wealth equality,” said Burkey. “I was so shocked by everything I found that I overloaded the interactive document with resources. I found that I didn’t want to ignore any of these factors. “

Burkey noted that while Americans are familiar with the push factors – economic exploitation, social terror, and political disenfranchisement – that led blacks to migrate south in search of a better life. However, he realized that many know less about the factors that pulled them away.

Burkey explained how the Red Terror that emerged immediately after the end of World War I led to the 1924 Immigration Act, which purposely slowed the entry of immigrants from Europe into the United States while effectively creating a labor shortage in the north. To address the shortage, industries began recruiting black southerners to work. By 1930, a tenth of the country’s black population had moved. When the Great Migration ended in the 1970s, almost half lived outside the south.

Burkey said many Americans are even less aware of the obstacles blacks faced upon arriving in the new urban environments. Not only did income inequality persist, but there were numerous discriminatory housing policies and programs that prohibited their ability to build equity through real estate investments.

During his investigation, Burkey said he was most shocked to find that the middle white household now has 10 to 12 times more wealth than the middle black household. To better understand what led to this large and growing inequality gap over time, he gathered the many materials that would eventually become his curriculum.

Burkey’s resources include a lesson on how to create the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) in 1933, a government agency tasked with addressing the country’s housing shortage at the time. The FHA put in place underwriting and property appraisal procedures and the terms and conditions under which mortgages should be underwritten so that lenders could provide risk-free loans and provide cheap money to promote home development and sales.

Sharing excerpts from the original federal drawing manual, Burkey noted that the text specifically set out racial restrictions that indicated that FHA-eligible property could not be sold or otherwise made available to non-whites to ensure black Americans and other people of color were excluded from the new suburban community development. Existing properties in other areas classified as disadvantaged could not be subsidized.

This policy, known as redlining, was rooted in the false belief that property values ​​would decline and credit would be jeopardized if neighborhoods were not “occupied by the same social and racial classes”. The barriers caused by FHA policies, urban regeneration programs, and the segregation of community alliances have continually pushed black families into affordable but less desirable areas where property values ​​could not be estimated.

“For many, investing in real estate is the core of building wealth. This was not an opportunity for African Americans. I had to think about the incredible increase in value that has been lost over the past nine decades, ”said Burkey.

One online tool that Burkey found particularly enlightening was Redlining Louisville: Racial Capitalism and Real Estate. This interactive tool explicitly shows how discriminatory FHA lending practices have profoundly and adversely affected the Black Community, and allows the viewer to contrast original FHA maps with 1933 lines with overlays of current census maps of the same areas. Teachers can help students compare statistics such as income, poverty level, and race between the two periods. The website offers compelling data to help students understand how biased guidelines have led to unequal wealth-building opportunities.

Other topics Burkey covers in the curriculum kit include The Compromise of 1877; Share cropping; the failure of Freedman’s Bank; the Mississippi Flood of 1927; the role of the Chicago Defender newspaper; Maps depicting the rapid growth of black boroughs in cities like New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit over the decades; the decline in union leverage in the north as the labor supply increases; the leveling of minority neighborhoods to make way for highways; and gentrification of downtown African American communities.

Burkey created a WebQuest that included videos, music, newspaper clippings, and other documents on the topic, and developed a way for students to explore content independently at their own pace. All the resources shared in his workshop were made fully accessible to the teachers present.

“Most of the students want to talk about it. And you want to feed that. Outside of the political nature of the discourse, it is a discussion that is badly needed, ”said Burkey.

“Teachers agree that immigration, race and equality are issues that students care about,” said Carlos Asarta, professor of economics and James B. O’Neill, director of CEEE. “These topics are also of crucial importance to us at CEEE. That’s why we want to make sure educators have the resources and knowledge they need to introduce them to their students.

“By bringing these important topics and history into their classrooms, educators can make learning more relevant and meaningful, while also helping students critically examine current and future events, a skill required for the development of an informed citizenship Asarta continued.

CEEE regularly offers up-to-date seminars for the K-12 educational community in Delaware that address current issues such as electoral economics, unemployment, and the coronavirus economy. Educators are invited to visit CEEE academic year calendar to see upcoming professional development opportunities and to review experience and competition events planned for students.