Employment of African Americans

During the time of segregation, tensions rose between the  community, civil rights groups, and the laborers over the issue of employment.  The tension increased when the poor whites found out that the blacks were able to work.  Some of the white men, out of anger, formed a small group called Marxists. They used any means they could find to keep blacks from working and earning wages.


Free blacks working on the plantation growing crops.
Plantation workers were skilled at what they did, but received little pay.

There were many differences between the jobs that whites held and the jobs that blacks held.  Black men got jobs that were dangerous and paid very little money.  Examples include digging wells, laying sewers, working on the railroads, and working on plantations.  Black women who had jobs also received very little pay for their work in factories, farms, or within the house, which paid nothing.
African-American laborers in Alleghany County, Virginia, 1889.

Man with an Ox Cart


African-Americans had to take the lowest-paying jobs, which was one of the most damaging effects of prejudice that African-Americans had to face.  William J. Brown, a free African-American who lived in Rhode Island in the 1830's, later wrote:
"To drive carriages, carry a market basket after the boss, and brush his boots... was as high as a colored man could rise."

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