To honor and reward returning soldiers who fought in WWII, Congress passed the G.I. Bill in 1944. Among its many benefits were government-guaranteed low-cost mortgages and low-interest loans. The bill marked an important milestone in the expansion of the American middle class, paving the way for families to build generational wealth.
Did I say families? Sorry, I meant to say white families.
A confluence of obstacles, largely ignored and even condoned by the government, including exclusionary deed covenants and the red-lining of black neighborhoods by banks, prevented most African-American veterans from reaping the benefits of the G.I. Bill. So, while white families were paying down mortgages and building nest eggs, black families were paying rent. While white families watched as the values of their homes increased, black families were paying rent. While white families were using their wealth to fund higher education for their children, black families were paying rent. While white families were passing down their wealth to subsequent generations, black families were paying rent.
The denial of benefits under the G.I. Bill represented yet another obstacle in the road to equality for African Americans. Its legacy is a continuation of the economic disadvantages that generations of African-Americans suffer from even today. The black soldiers of WWII fought valiantly for our freedom, for their families, and for a piece of the American pie.
It’s time we gave it to them.