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Social Programs & African Americans

Updated: May 30


The effects these presidential domestic programs (Federally Assisted Programs) have/had on African Americans. The benefits that were included/excluded to African Americans. And what effects these exclusions have/had on their communities.

FDR - Present. Regardless of political party.

The New Deal:

The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939.


It changed black voting: The issue was that the New Deal did not target the Black community and actively excluded African Americans. After the New Deal, African Americans began to vote Democrat instead of Republican. The New Deal programs did assist them, so switching parties was a logical choice. Source

Until the New Deal, Blacks had shown their traditional loyalty to the party of Abraham Lincoln by voting overwhelmingly Republican. By the end of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first administration, however, one of the most dramatic voter shifts in American history had occurred. In 1936, some 75 percent of Black voters supported the Democrats. Source

The Roosevelt administration appointed a number of black people to the federal office but did not support racial equality (for fear of losing the vote of white Southern Democrats). Therefore, blacks were still discriminated against and excluded from many New Deal programs.

Local officials and contractors, particularly in the South, bent the rules to hire fewer African Americans, exclude them from skilled jobs and pay them less than Whites. Source

The effects of The New Deals on AA's? Good overall but...

Social Security Act of 1935: The Decision to Exclude Agricultural and Domestic Workers from the 1935 Social Security Act

The Social Security Act of 1935 excluded from coverage about half the workers in the American economy. Among the excluded groups were agricultural and domestic workers—a large percentage of whom were African Americans. This has led some scholars to conclude that policymakers in 1935 deliberately excluded African Americans from the Social Security system because of prevailing racial biases during that period.

The effects of The Social Security Act on AA's? Good overall but...

Interstate Highway System: Eisenhower Admin.

The U.S. Interstate Highway System was built from the 1950s to the early 1990s and is one of the country’s greatest public works achievements, but it came at an enormous social cost. More than 1 million people were forced from their homes, with many Black neighborhoods bulldozed and replaced with ribbons of asphalt and concrete1. Planners of the interstate highway system, which began to take shape after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, routed some highways directly, and sometimes purposefully, through Black and brown communities. In some instances, the government took homes by eminent domain.


When President Eisenhower created the U.S. Interstate Highway System in 1956, transportation planners tore through the nation’s urban areas with freeways that, through intention and indifference, carved up Black communities3. Instead of going through Black communities, some interstate highways encircled them in an attempt to contain and confine black residents and skirt constitutional prohibitions on racial zoning.

The effects of the Interstate Highway System on AA's? Bad overall

The War on Drugs: Nixon-Reagan declares ‘War on Drugs,’ October 14, 1982

The War on Drugs is a term for the actions taken and legislation enacted by the US federal government, intended to reduce or eliminate the production, distribution, and use of illicit drugs. The War on Drugs began during the Nixon administration with the goal of reducing the supply of and demand for illegal drugs, but an ulterior racial motivation has been proposed. The War on Drugs has led to controversial legislation and policies, including mandatory minimum penalties and stop-and-frisk searches, which have been suggested to be carried out disproportionately against minorities.


The War on Drugs had a significantly much greater negative effect on blacks and Hispanics than whites, making the Drug War even more shameful for its devastating and disproportionate adverse effects on America’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Being convicted of a crime has devastating effects on the employment prospects and incomes of ex-felons and their children. The strict drug laws from the War on Drugs targeted Black offenders and aided in creating harmful stereotypes surrounding Black populations. People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the criminal legal system. The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color.

The effects of the War on Drugs on AA's? Bad overall

Welfare Program: FDR

Welfare Reform: Clinton Administration

State and local administrators of AFDC who were given latitude to determine eligibility criteria systematically excluded African Americans and Mexican Americans from welfare receipt through “suitable home clauses” and “employable mother laws,” which refused assistance to mothers who didn’t keep “proper” homes or who it was believed could get a job and become self-supporting. Some states denied assistance to mothers who had a man living in the home whether or not he provided financial support or was the father of her children.


Clinton’s welfare reform bill was both an extension of this discourse and marked a turning point. It was similarly rooted in a culture of poverty argument, evidenced by his racially coded language of dependency and people taking advantage of the system. Clinton alluded to the fear of black street crime, drug use, crack babies, the breakdown of the family, and the drain on public dollars. His primary goal in dismantling AFDC, as he put it, was to end the “cycle of dependence” and “achieve a national welfare reform bill that will make work and responsibility the law of the land.” With support from both Democrats and Republicans, the 1996 reform was rolled out with great fanfare and promises of “ending welfare as we know it.” The aim: to reduce the number of people on welfare.

The effects of the Welfare Program/Welfare Reform on AA's? 50% good, 50% bad

The Peace Corps: The Peace Corps have actually been an overall positive for AA's. With employment reflecting the population of AA's in America. 13% of Peace Corps employees are Black or African American. Source

The effects of The Peace Corps on AA's? Good overall

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: George W. Bush

No child left behind -what it was made for -did it accomplish its goal?

(NCLB) A U.S. Act of Congress that reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; it included Title I provisions applying to disadvantaged students.

Effect(s) on racial and ethnic minority students The Act seeks to narrow the class and racial achievement gap in the United States by creating common expectations for all. NCLB has shown mixed success in eliminating the racial achievement gap. Although there is evidence to support the statement that test scores are improving, studies do not find evidence that racial achievement gaps have narrowed in a significant way since the legislation was enacted.

In [the most disadvantaged schools] in America, even the most earnest teacher has often given up because they lack every available resource that could possibly make a difference. ... When we say all children can achieve and then not give them the additional resources ... we are creating a fantasy.

On April 30, 2015, a bill was introduced to Congress to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed by the House on December 2 and the Senate on December 9, before being signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015. Source

The effect of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 on AA's? No difference overall

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Obama Admin.

Black unemployment was nearly 5 to 6 percentage points higher than the national average in 2009 and 2010. However, the unemployment rate fell for African Americans during Obama administration.


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provided for $787 billion in education, health care, infrastructure and renewable energy investments to help spur the economy. How much of that went to black communities is unknown but black unemployment did drop during the Obama administration. That decrease being because of the ARRA is anyone's guess.

The effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on AA's? Good overall but it took a while...

See also the effect(s) of these programs:

Affirmative Action

G.I. bill

Federal Housing Administration

Comment on how these programs and others have affected African Americans below. What other social programs have had an effect on African Americans? Good or Bad?

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