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By 1941, the 15,714 employees of Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore had won the right

to union representation.  Soon, the steelworkers enjoyed health benefits, vacation and sick leave

 

 

A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore

from Putting Baltimore's People First (2004)

 

In 1950, Baltimore was the sixth-largest city in the country, home to 950,000 people and a thriving manufacturing and shipping industry.1  As the economic base of Maryland, Baltimore provided 75% of all jobs to workers in the region.2  Many were manufacturing jobs in textiles and automobile production.  The region’s economic  powerhouse, however, was the steel industry.

 

The Rise and Fall of Steel in Baltimore — Sparrows Point

Steel was brought to the City with the construction of a steel mill and shipyard by the Pennsylvania Steel Company in 1893, and came to dominate the local economy following the company’s acquisition by Bethlehem Steel in 1916.  

Along with the plant, the company established a residential community called Sparrow Point.  Workers from rural Maryland and Pennsylvania and the South, of Welsh, Irish, German, Russian, Hungarian and African-American descent, were attracted to the promise of high pay of industrial employment, and many came to live in the company town.  There, they enjoyed low rent (between $4 – $14 a month for a nine room house) and free home maintenance, company-subsidized churches and schools, easy access to credit, and a strong sense of community.3  

The company segregated residents by race and by rank, which determined the size and location of houses.  Community high schools prepared steelworkers’ sons for jobs at the mill, reserving training in skilled jobs for whites.  Still, steel work offered new opportunities for advancement to families of all backgrounds; the first school for African-American children, the Bragg School, produced many black business leaders and educators who grew up in Sparrow Point.

By the 1930s, Bethlehem’s steelworkers had outgrown Sparrow Point, and began to move to Dundalk and into Baltimore, where immigrant Finns, Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians and Italians settled in Highlandtown, and African-American workers settled in Old West Baltimore.  

When the CIO set out to organize the steel industry by establishing the Steel Workers Organizing Committee, their first campaign to organize Bethlehem steelworkers found its greatest support among those newer transplants living outside of the company town.  Foreign-born whites, many of whom had participated in unions before coming to Baltimore, and African-Americans, who in 1933 had launched a successful boycott of stores that refused to hire black employees, threw collective weight behind the organizing drive at Sparrow Point.  

By 1941, the 15,714 employees of Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore had won the right to union representation.  Soon, the steelworkers enjoyed health benefits, vacation and sick leave, and what one historian calls, “decent pay for one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs.”4

During World War II, the steel industry underwent a production boom.  Bethlehem’s mill at Sparrow Point, which built cargo and transport ships, expanded quickly to meet supply needs.  The mill reached its peak employment in 1959, with 35,000 workers.5  Second- or third-generation steelworkers earning union wages could achieve financial independence with middle-class living standards, save for the future, and afford higher education for their children to prepare them for employment beyond the steel mill.  

In short, union representation helped to transform an industry with a self-replicating workforce of unskilled workers into a means for economic and social advancement.

The latter part of the 20th Century saw a nationwide decline in the manufacturing sector, and Bethlehem Steel was no exception to this trend.  In 1971, when Sparrows Point was the largest steel mill in the country, a surge in steel imports led to massive layoffs among domestic producers.  Three thousand workers at Sparrow Point lost their jobs that year, followed by another 7,000 in 1975.6  

By the late 1980s, the workforce had dwindled to 8,000, accompanied by a decline in wages and benefits as the union conceded on many  pay and benefits issues.7  Baltimore workers could no longer look to steel as a source of middle-class wages and job security.

The story of Bethlehem’s steel mill at Sparrows Point is a microcosm of economic changes that profoundly affected Baltimore and other “rust belt” cities across the US during this period.  The manufacturing industries, having long been the economic base for employment and output for nearly a century, dwindled and disappeared.  

Baltimore lost over 100,000 manufacturing jobs between 1950 and 1995, 75% of its industrial employment — not to mention most of the jobs with union representation.  Currently, only 6% of all jobs in the City are in manufacturing.  The collapse of industry led to a number of changes in the demographic makeup of the City and the surrounding region, contributing to a crisis in urban poverty that lingers today.

The Great Decline into Post-Industrial Poverty

As factories bled manufacturing jobs, Baltimore bled residents:  nearly one-third of its population left between 1950 and 2000.9  Businesses fled the City, followed by workers, and Baltimore began to lose its stature as the economic hub of central Maryland.  

The City’s share of the region’s manufacturing employment had dropped from 75% in 1954 to 30% in 1995, while its share of the region’s retail sales fell from 50% to 18% in 1992.10  

As the City’s population shrank to 657,000 by 1997, Baltimore’s suburbs grew from 387,656 residents in 1950 to over 1.8 million in 1997.  Once the population center of central Maryland, by the end of the century, Baltimore contained only a quarter of the region’s total population.

Major Demographic Changes

Contributing to the suburbanization of the central Maryland region were changes in the racial makeup of the City’s population and the phenomenon of “white flight.”  

Beginning in the early 20th Century, African-Americans from the rural South, many with sharecropping backgrounds, began moving north in great numbers.  Baltimore became a major destination for southern blacks fleeing poverty and Jim Crow, seeking jobs and a better place to raise their children.  

Northern migration transformed the makeup of Baltimore’s population.  Prior to 1900, predominantly African-American neighborhoods did not exist in Baltimore:  black residents were spread out throughout the City, and no single ward was more than one-third black.11  Between 1950 and 1970, Baltimore’s African-American population almost doubled, while whites moved away from the City.  As a result, by 1997, Baltimore had gone from less than one-quarter to nearly two-thirds black.

Early on, black neighborhoods were largely confined to the areas directly northeast and northwest of downtown, but as more people moved in, these neighborhoods expanded into previously white neighborhoods.  Middle-class whites reacted to these changes with uncertainty and alarm.  

Urban developers preyed on racial anxieties in order to maximize their profits from housing sales.  In areas close to expanding black neighborhoods, real estate agents would float generous offers to the first white residents willing to sell their houses, which they would quickly sell or rent to black tenants.  Then, agents would use the presence of new residents to play up fears of racial change among the remaining white residents.  Often they would threaten white residents with the prospect of lower property values for those who would be the last to leave.  

One historian quotes a white former resident describing the change:  “It was gradual — then a rush.…  A lot of people said they would never sell their houses to blacks, and they were the first ones to do it.”12  Blockbusting is now illegal but the process was effective and extremely profitable for developers.  In 1969, the Activists, a fair housing coalition, discovered that one developer, the Morris Goldseker Company, had bought homes north of Edmondson Avenue for an average of $7,320 and sold them immediately for $12,387, exacting a 69% markup from black home buyers.

Life was not easy for new residents.  Black Baltimoreans continued to face discrimination, and were affected by poverty, unemployment, crime, and housing deterioration to a disproportionate degree compared to white residents.  While the poverty rate for whites in the City was about 10% in 1960, it was roughly three times higher for blacks.  Baltimore’s crime rate went up steadily through the 1960s, and by 1970, the City had one of the highest homicide rates in the country.  

For many longtime residents, this decade — punctuated by the 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King — was the turning point.  Middle-class whites began moving further and further towards the edges of the City, and increasingly began to look outside the city for an enclave apart from black expansion and social unrest.  While in 1950, almost two-thirds of the region’s white population lived in Baltimore, only 12.5% lived in the City by 1997.

Flight of the Black Middle Class

Exacerbating conditions was the subsequent flight from the City of middle-class African-Americans.  Increasingly, Baltimore’s black middle class followed white Baltimoreans who had fled to the suburbs before them.  Between 1990 and 2000, the number of African-Americans living in the City declined for the first time, while the most recent census report shows a decline in Baltimore’s black population roughly equal to that of its white population.13  Now, after decades of population drain, the characteristic that defines the City’s polarization from the suburbs is not race, but economic class.

Rise of the Service Sector

With the decline of manufacturing, the service sector came to be the dominant base of employment for Baltimore City residents.  Today, service-providing jobs account for over 90% of all jobs in Baltimore City.14  Such jobs have a heavily minority workforce; one study found that in 1990, 71% of low-wage service workers in Baltimore were African-American, though African-Americans represented only 59% of the City’s population.15  

In many positions, the majority of workers are women; according to the same report, women filled 83% of administrative support positions and 84% of personal services positions.  Three-quarters of the women included in the survey who supported a family were the sole source of income for that household.  Service industries such as hospitals, nursing homes, and tourism had become the primary source of employment for poor and minority workers.

Service jobs are largely characterized by low pay, high turnover rates, irregular or part-time schedules, lack of benefits, job insecurity, and lack of union representation.  Few offer vocational training or skills-building opportunities for advancement.  Low pay forces many service workers to work second jobs, increasing their weekly work hours to more than 60 in some cases.  Also, many workplaces are located far from the neighborhoods where service workers live, adding to transportation and child care costs for working families.

In a city an increasingly poor and minority population, the low-wage service sector has became the principal determinant of the economic status of Baltimore City residents.  The growing concentration of urban poverty and the rise of low-wage service economy have at once reinforced one another and exacerbated poor living conditions for urban workers.

Notations

 1 Levine, Marc V.  “A Third-World City in the First World”:  Social Exclusion, Race Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.”  In The Social Sustainability of Cities:  Diversity and the Management of Change, edited by Mario Polese and Richard Stern.  Toronto:  Toronto University Press, 2000.

 2 Levine, 2000.

 3 Rent figures from early to mid-20th Century; same prices from 1925 would be between $42 to $148 today.  Radice, Christina.  “Sparrows Point:  A Real Steel Town that Thrived.”  Dundalk Eagle, October 29, 2003.

 4 Zeidman, Linda.  “Sparrows Point, Dundalk, Highlandtown, Old West Baltimore:  Home of Gold Dust and the Union Card.”  The Baltimore Book.  Ed. Elizabeth Fee, Linda Shopes, Linda Zeidman.  Philadelphia:  Temple University Press, 1991.

 5 Mause, Terri Narrell.  “Bethlehem Steel Has Tight Ties to Dundalk.”  Dundalk Eagle, June 23, 2003.

 6 Mause, 2003

 7 Zeidman, 1991

 8 Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Current Employment Statistics for Baltimore City, 2002 figures.

 9 Siegel, Eric.  “White Flight Shows Signs of Declining.”  Baltimore Sun, October 16, 2003

10 All citations in the remainder of this section are from Levine, 2000, unless otherwise noted.

11 Olson, Karen.  “Old West Baltimore:  Segregation, African-American Culture, and the Struggle for Equality.”  In Fee, Shopes and Zeidman, 1991.

12 Olson, 1991

13 Siegel, 2003

14 Bureau of Labor Statistics

15 Niedt, Christopher, Greg Ruiters, Dada Wise, and Erica Schoenberger.  The Effects  of the Living Wages in Baltimore.  Washington:  Economic Policy Institute, 1999.

16 “Health Services” employment is based on a two-digit SIC code, while “Manufacturing” is an amalgamation of employment figures for numerous two-digit SIC manufacturing codes: Primary Metal, Fabricated Metal, Industrial Machinery, Electronic, and Transportation.

Source: Putting Baltimore's People First: Keys to Responsible Economic Development of Our City (2004). For your copy contact: District 1199E-DC, SEIU, AFL-CIO / 611 N. Eutaw Street, 2nd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21217 / 410.332.1199 / 202.328.0321 / Fax: 410.332.1291

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The Wire: The Complete Series (2008) / The Wire—Season One Opening Credits

Season One opening credits for "The Wire". The title song "Way Down in the Hole" is performed by The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. (From: Season 1, Episode 1 "The Target")

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The Wire—Season One Opening Scene  / The Wire—Season 1, Playing Chess  / The Wire Season 1 Recap

In which Detective Jimmy McNulty tries to discover who killed a young man named Snot Boogie. "This is America, man". (Season 1, Episode 1 "The Target") / D'Angelo teaches Wallace and Bodie how to play chess. Season 1 of the Wire. / Refresh your memories of season 1 of HBO's the wire

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The Corner

The bleak reality of drug addiction is captured with unflinching authenticity in The Corner, an excellent, reality-based HBO miniseries. Having lived on the streets of West Baltimore, Maryland, where this compelling drama takes place, actor-director Charles S. Dutton knows the territory, physically, socially, and emotionally, and his compassionate approach is vital to the series' success. Dutton cares for his characters deeply enough to give them a realistic shred of hope, even when hope is consistently dashed by the ravages of addiction. This is, at its root, a family tragedy, focusing on errant father Gary (T.K. Carter, in a heartbreaking performance) a once-successful investor trapped in a tailspin of heroin dependency. His estranged wife Fran (Khandi Alexander) was the first to get hooked, and she's struggling to get clean, while their 15-year-old son DeAndre (Sean Nelson, from the indie hit Fresh) deals drugs, temporarily avoiding their deadly allure while facing the challenge of premature fatherhood.

Through revealing flashbacks and numerous local characters, we see the explicit fallout of addiction, and while violence occasionally erupts, its constant threat is secondary to Dutton's dramatic vision, which remains steadfastly alert to the humanity and neglected potential of these lost and searching souls. The Corner is, essentially, the civilian flipside of HBO's equally laudable series The Wire, which approaches a similar neighborhood from a police-squad perspective. Performances are uniformly superb, details are uncannily perfect, and for all of its human horror, The Corner is riveting, not depressing. A closing interview with the characters' real-life counterparts bears witness to the fact that these lives--with inevitable exceptions--need not be lost forever.—Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

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The Corner (YouTube video)

The Corner is a 2000 HBO television miniseries based on the book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Ed Burns and adapted for television by Simon and David Mills. The Corner chronicles the life of a family living in poverty amid the open-air drug markets of West Baltimore.

The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood

This is a powerful book, a window on aspects of America most people would rather ignore. To their great credit, the authors--David Simon wrote Homicide, the basis for the popular television show; Edward Burns is a former Baltimore police officer, now a public school teacher--refuse to sensationalize their subject or make its people into stereotypes.

For a year the two hung out in a West Baltimore neighborhood that was a center of the drug trade. At the center of the narrative is the McCullough family—DeAndre, age 15, and his drug-addicted parents, Gary and Fran. While reading The Corner, there are times when we pity them, times when they make us angry. The book's strength, though, is that we always understand them.

This portrayal of a year in drug-crazed West Baltimore will satisfy neither readers looking for a perceptive witness to the urban crisis nor those in search of social analysis. Simon (Homicide, LJ 6/1/91), a crime reporter, and Burns, a Baltimore police veteran and public school teacher, mask their presence in the scene with an omniscient style that strains credibility, and the chronological framework blunts the impact of their most compelling themes. The authors salute the courageous but futile efforts of individual parents, educators, and police officers but deny the possibility of a social solution to the devastation they acknowledge is rooted in social policy. A more compelling account is Our America: Life and Death (LJ 6/1/97) on the South Side of Chicago, based on interviews conducted by 13-year-old public housing residents LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman in 1993. For larger public libraries.—Library Journal

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Poem at Central Booking

                     By DeAndre McCullough

Silent screams and broken dreams

Addicts, junkies, pushers and fiends

Crowded spaces and sad faces

Never look back as the police chase us

Consumed slowly by chaos, a victim of the streets,

Hungry for knowledge, but afraid to eat.

A life of destruction, it seems no one cares,

A manchild alone with burdens to bear.

Trapped in a life of crime and hate,

It seems the ghetto will be my fate.

If I had just one wish it would surely be,

That God would send angels to set me free

Free from the madness, of a city running wild,

Freed from the life of a ghetto child.

Source: The Corner (1997) by David Simon and Edward Burns

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The Corner—DeAndre and Prop Joe  / The Corner—The Real Fran, DeAndre, Tyreeka and Blue!

The last ten minutes from the HBO series The Corner, where Charles S. Dutton, the director talks to the real life characters, the story was based on.

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Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in Annapolis  /  Agnew Speaks to Black Baltimore Leaders 1968

The End of Black Rage? Class and Delusion in Black America (Jared Ball)

The Black Generation Gap (Ellis Cose)  / Walter Hall Lively   Forty Years of Determined Struggle 

Putting Baltimore's People First  Dominance of Johns Hopkins   A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The End of Anger

A New Generation's Take on Race and Rage

By Ellis Cose

From a venerated and bestselling voice on American life comes a contemporary look at the decline of black rage; the demise of white guilt; and the intergenerational shifts in how blacks and whites view, and interact with, each other. In the heady aftermath of President Obama's election, conventional wisdom suggested that the bitter, angry, and destructive elements of discrimination were ebbing at last and America was becoming a postracial nation. . . . Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys that he conducted—one of black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program offering elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963—Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America that attempts to make sense of what a people do when the dream, for some, is finally within reach as one historical era ends and another begins.—Ecco, 2011

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Obama and Black Americans: the Paradox of Hope—By Gary Younge—But for all the ways black America has felt better about itself and looked better to others, it has not actually fared better. In fact, it has been doing worse. The economic gap between black and white has grown since Obama took power. Under his tenure black unemployment, poverty and foreclosures are at their highest levels for at least a decade.

Millions of black kids may well aspire to the presidency now that a black man is in the White House. But such a trajectory is less likely for them now than it was under Bush. Herein lies what is at best a paradox and at worst a contradiction within Obama’s core base of support. The very group most likely to support him—black Americans—is the same group that is doing worse under him.—TheNation

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Here lies Jim Crow: Civil rights in Maryland

 By C. Fraser Smith

Though he lived throughout much of the South—and even worked his way into parts of the North for a time—Jim Crow was conceived and buried in Maryland. From Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney's infamous decision in the Dred Scott case to Thurgood Marshall's eloquent and effective work on Brown v. Board of Education, the battle for black equality is very much the story of Free State women and men. Here, Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith recounts that tale through the stories, words, and deeds of famous, infamous, and little-known Marylanders. He traces the roots of Jim Crow laws from Dred Scott to Plessy v. Ferguson and describes the parallel and opposite early efforts of those who struggled to establish freedom and basic rights for African Americans.

Following the historical trail of evidence, Smith relates latter-day examples of Maryland residents who trod those same steps, from the thrice-failed attempt to deny black people the vote in the early twentieth century to nascent demonstrations for open access to lunch counters, movie theaters, stores, golf courses, and other public and private institutions—struggles that occurred decades before the now-celebrated historical figures strode onto the national civil rights scene. Smith's lively account includes the grand themes and the state's major players in the movement—Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, and Lillie May Jackson, among others.—and also tells the story of the struggle via several of Maryland's important but relatively unknown men and womensuch as Gloria Richardson, John Prentiss Poe, William L. "Little Willie" Adams, and Walter Sondheimwho prepared Jim Crow's grave and waited for the nation to deliver the body.—Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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update 4 March 2012

 

 

 

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