A Third Reconstruction?
everal years ago, Rev. Jackson of the Rainbow Coalition held several seminars and forums in New York City to advocate for the inclusion and utilization of African-American firms as brokerage houses and traders on Wall Street. In fact, many African-American leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson have begun to advance a movement to enhance awareness of the economic plight of Blacks in the 21st century. Such actions toward economic freedom and development opportunities for African-American businesses, have recently come to be known as the Third Reconstruction.
Historically, the First Reconstruction occurred between 1865 and 1877 when a series of legislative, social, and economic policies were initiated by the federal government to help Blacks make the transition from slavery to freedom. Most notably, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments were passed to abolish slavery, recognize Blacks citizens, and give Black men the right to vote. However, a racial backlash brought the movement to a crushing end with the overthrow of the reconstruction government and the rise of Jim Crow, (a legal and social practice of establishing segregated, or so-called “separate but equal,” facilities for African-Americans).
The Civil Rights Movement brought about a Second Reconstruction that occurred between 1954 and 1972. It was partially triggered by the Brown vs. Topeka, KS, Board of Education, Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which also undermined the foundation of Jim Crow. The War on Poverty, voting rights, affirmative action, equal employment opportunities, and a host of other social and economic initiatives also resulted from the Second Reconstruction. Moreover, the victories of the Civil Rights Movement made possible the election of Black public officials, and greatly expanded the ranks of the middle class.
A 21st century Third Reconstruction, many believe, must include a continued push for racial equality and integration, community empowerment, and social and economic justice. However, the larger agenda must respond to the economic conditions of inner cities, where there is a critical shortage of basic goods and services. Moreover, gang violence, prostitution, drugs, and inefficient police and municipal services, continue to demoralize inner-city residents and spawn a culture of abandonment.
It is also essential that policy makers address the concerns of Black entrepreneurs, including access to capital and investment friendly opportunities. Corporations must be encouraged to advertise in African-American newspapers, banks must be pushed to establish lending programs for Black businesses, and the public and private sector must develop initiatives to utilize African-American vendors, suppliers, and professional service providers. In short, the Third Reconstruction must not only fight against discrimination, but must also deal with the more complex social and economic problems African-Americans face.
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