ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

The Best MuckReads on America’s Troubled History With Race

To mark Black History Month, we’ve rounded up some of the best reporting on America’s troubled history with race and inequality.

Thousands of people gather at Washington Square to march through the Manhattan to protest the police violence on December 13, 2014 in New York, United States. (Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There have been several events throughout American history that have, for some, signaled the beginning of a post-racial society. The election of Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States is the latest milestone. But the reality is, many believe that racism is still a big problem in the U.S.

To sort through America's troubled history of inequality, here's a guide to some of the best recent reporting we've seen that shines a light on the issue of racial injustice and celebrates the resilience of black Americans. See any we missed? Share in the comments.

The Past and the Present


The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, PBS

From police monitoring to rallying against mass incarceration, this documentary explores some of the radical views of the 1960s Black Panther Party that have become mainstream.

The Radical Origins of Free Breakfast for Children, Eater

In 1966, the federal government began testing a radical idea: free breakfast for students. The resulting program, which served 12.9 million children free breakfast in 2012, is now "one of the U.S. government's largest welfare programs," Eater examines the roots of our nation's free breakfast program, which some activists say was inspired by the Black Panther Party.

Long a Force for Progress, a Freedom Summer Legend Looks Back, ProPublica

Civil rights icon John Lewis has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district in the U.S. House since 1987. In 2014, he spoke with ProPublica about his role in the Freedom Summer of the 1960s and whether there is a current need for that kind of activism.

Unpublished Black History, The New York Times

On Feb. 14, 1965, Malcolm X's home in Harlem was bombed. The following day the New York Times ran an article about the bombing and included a picture of Malcolm X stepping out of his car in front of the house. What they didn't show was the devastation the bomb caused inside. That photo, and several others included in this project, remained unpublished – until now.

Education


Segregation Now, ProPublica

In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation of U.S. public schools unconstitutional. But this investigation finds that school integration never fully occurred – and has actually reversed in many cities in recent decades. In fact, U.S. public schools are more segregated now than they were in 1968.

More: Timeline: From Brown v. Board to Segregation Now

The Rise, Fall, and Improbable Comeback of Morris Brown College, Buzzfeed

As some debate the ongoing need for historically black colleges and universities, Georgia's 135-year-old Morris Brown College is an HBCU that has made the case for a comeback. Its story is one of a celebrated history muddied by financial issues—and ultimately bankruptcy—and its fight to survive.

A Rallying Cry for a Second-Chance School: The Fight to Save Chicago State, Seven Scribes

The fight to protect HBCUs from closing or consolidating due to financial strain is a topic of national discussion – so much so, that the White House has an initiative to preserve them. But for schools like Chicago State University, which serve a predominantly black population but don't get the HBCU designation, concerns over their closing don't gain the same traction.

School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson, ProPublica

Few places better reflect the rise and fall of school integration efforts than St. Louis and its suburbs. This examination of two school districts situated just five miles apart helps explain the disparity in resources and expectations for black children in America's stubbornly segregated educational system.

More: This American Life's The Problem We All Live With

Wealth & Housing


The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods, ProPublica

In 2015, the median white household held 16 times the wealth of median black households; our investigation looked at the impact of debt collection on some of those minority families. This first-of-its-kind analysis found that, even when adjusting for income, black neighborhoods were hit twice as hard by debt collection lawsuits than white neighborhoods. 

More: Why Small Debts Matter So Much To Black Lives

Race Best Predicts Whether You Live Near Pollution, The Nation

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan—a majority black community— is not an anomaly. In fact, a 1987 report found that race is "the most significant predictor of a person living near hazardous waste," and when communities try to report issues, the cries often fall on deaf ears. According to a Center for Public Integrity review of Title VI cases, more than 90 percent of the time communities turned to the EPA for help, "the civil-rights office has either rejected or dismissed their Title VI complaints."

More: How the EPA Has Failed to Challenge Environmental Racism in Flint—and Beyond

Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law, ProPublica

The 1968 Fair Housing Act required that the government "affirmatively further" fair housing. But despite efforts made to integrate communities; "levels of residential segregation have barely budged" in the four decades since.

Police Brutality and Community Policing


A Black Police Officer's Fight Against the N.Y.P.D., The New York Times

Edwin Raymond joined the NYPD in hopes of fixing a broken relationship between the community and police, but what he found was a system in dire need of top-to-bottom reform. Now, he's risking his career to fix the system.

More: Deadly Force, in Black and White

The Black Cop in Baltimore, Buzzfeed

Baltimore's police force is nearly 40 percent black, making it one of the more diverse departments in the nation. But a 2013 survey found that many black people in Baltimore have a negative view of the police. This is a look at why many believe—beyond a change in the racial make-up of police departments—a change in the system of policing is necessary.

More: Yes, Black America Fears the Police. Here's Why.

The Guardian and the _ Washington Post monitor people killed by police and fatal police shootings, respectively.  The Post _wrote about what it learned from a year of tracking police shootings here.

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