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How Black Veterans Were Locked Out Of The Post War GI Bill’s Benefits

It should have been enough that black men were only 80 years removed from chattel slavery. Reconstruction was thwarted by Jim Crow laws. Then to boot, many thriving "Black Wall Streets" in which black owned businesses and communities were thriving, were destroyed one way or another by the dominant white establishment. Many had known of the Tulsa Oklahoma "Black Wall Street" that was destroyed in 1921, but there were many more throughout the country such as The Hayti Community (Durham, NC), Jackson Ward (Richmond, VA), The 4th Avenue District (Birmingham, AL) and Boley, OK, just to name a few. Every positive step that the black man (black family) attempted to make, independently, in an attempt to carve out the "American Dream" (own a home, own a business, work and live happily) the American government and it's goons found a way to destroy it.

The GI Bill would "supposedly" greatly assist "ALL" of those who had put their lives on the line for this country.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill), was created to help veterans return to normal Civilian life, by providing low-interest loans and mortgages. The Bill was meant to help veterans readjust to civilian life post-war, regardless of color. However, after the war, the Bill ended up helping most of the White Veterans prosper and accumulate wealth while shutting doors on their Black counterparts.

The GI Bill didn’t expressly bar Black Veterans from the benefits, but it’s application did. The effect was worse in the South, where segregation was the law. The Southern banks and mortgages outrightly refused loans to people with color. The public universities in the region were not admitting black students either. While the Southern region was applying segregation laws, the North dragged their feet in facilitating loans for the Black Veterans.

The only public universities that were accepting Black students were either of very low quality, strained, with a lot of admission requests, or, in most cases, both. The fact that Black Veterans were not well prepared for college education also made things worse. The GI Bill at the end of the day seemed to have only further widened the gap between the White and Black community.

Eugene Burnett, one of the WWII Veterans, experienced first hand how such discriminations played out. In 1949 he wanted to buy a house in Levittown, New York, what he thought would be a wonderful home for his family. Burnett hoped that the GI Bill would help finance the mortgage required to buy one of the beautiful homes he noticed in Levittown. Unfortunately for him, the houses were not open to Balck residents – and just like that he was shut out of owning his dream home.

“It was as though it wasn’t real,” Burnett’s wife, Bernice, recalled. “Look at this house! Can you imagine having this? And then for them to tell me because of the color of my skin that I can’t be part of it?”

Black Veterans were locked out of enjoying the benefits of the GI Bill, through segregation or by intimidation. The racial disparities in the implementation of the Bill, saw more and more White Veterans prosper while Black Veterans stagnate.

“These impediments were not confined to the South, in New York and the northern New Jersey suburbs, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the GI Bill supported home purchases by non-whites,” ” noted Ira Katznelson, a historian.

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