A Brief Economic History of Modern
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
industries such as hospitals, nursing homes, and tourism had
become the primary source of employment for poor and minority
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
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.
Levine, Marc V. “A
Third-World City in the First World”:
Social Exclusion, Race Inequality, and Sustainable
Development in Baltimore.”
The Social Sustainability of Cities:
Diversity and the Management of Change, edited by
Mario Polese and Richard Stern. Toronto: Toronto
University Press, 2000.
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.
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.
University Press, 1991.
Mause, Terri Narrell. “Bethlehem
Steel Has Tight Ties to Dundalk.”
Dundalk Eagle, June 23, 2003.
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Current Employment Statistics for Baltimore City, 2002
Siegel, Eric. “White
Flight Shows Signs of Declining.”
Baltimore Sun, October 16, 2003
All citations in the remainder of this section are from Levine,
2000, unless otherwise noted.
Olson, Karen. “Old
West Baltimore: Segregation,
African-American Culture, and the Struggle for Equality.”
In Fee, Shopes and Zeidman, 1991.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Niedt, Christopher, Greg Ruiters, Dada Wise, and Erica
Effects of the Living Wages in Baltimore. Washington: Economic
Policy Institute, 1999.
“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
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:
* * *
The Wire: The Complete Series (2008) /
Wire—Season One Opening Credits
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")
* * * * *
The Wire—Season One Opening Scene /
The Wire—Season 1, Playing Chess /
The Wire Season 1 Recap
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
* * * * *
bleak reality of drug addiction is
captured with unflinching authenticity
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
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
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
* * * * *
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
The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City
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
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
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
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
* * * * *
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
Hungry for knowledge, but afraid to eat.
A life of destruction, it seems no one
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
Freed from the life of a ghetto child.
David Simon and Edward Burns
* * * * *
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.
* * *
Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in
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
Baltimore's People First
Dominance of Johns Hopkins
A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore
* * *
* * *
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
* * *
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.
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
* * *
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 women—such as Gloria Richardson, John Prentiss Poe, William L. "Little Willie" Adams, and Walter Sondheim—who prepared Jim Crow's grave and waited for the nation to deliver the body.—Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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Negro Digest /
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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
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 4 March 2012