Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Education and Home Ownership are the massive engines that drive generational wealth in America. However, it has been a gnawing inconvenient truth that Black
WII veterans received substantially less money toward purchasing a home or continuing their education. On November 11, 2021, Veterans Day, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, (African American) the Democratic majority whip, and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts are reviving an effort to pay the families of Black service members who fought on behalf of the nation during World War II for benefits they were denied or prevented from taking full advantage of when they returned home from war.
The Maddox -Woodard Bill
The new legislative effort named “The Maddox -Woodard Bill” would benefit surviving spouses and all living descendants of Black WWII veterans whose families were denied the opportunity to build wealth with housing and educational benefits through the GI Bill.
Sgt. Joseph Maddox was denied tuition assistance by his local VA office despite being accepted into a master’s degree program at Harvard University. The bill is also named for Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr., a WWII veteran from Winnsboro, South Carolina, who was brutally beaten and blinded by a small-town police chief in 1946 after returning home from the war. The acquittal of his attacker by an all-white jury helped spur the integration of the U.S. armed services in 1948.
Since 1944, those benefits have been offered to millions of veterans transitioning to civilian life. Those military veterans have seen significant appreciation in home prices that enhanced their ability to build generational wealth. This has contributed to their families living a higher quality of life in America. Due to racism and discrimination that prevailed in that period and attitudes of White Americans that worked in local Veterans Affairs offices, many Black WWII veterans received substantially less money toward purchasing a home or continuing their education. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law in 1944, making generous financial subsidies available to 16 million WWII veterans pursuing higher education and buying their first homes. Irrespective of race, veterans who served more than 90 days during the war and were honorably discharged were entitled to the benefits.
Two Different Realities
But after returning from the war, Black and white veterans faced. Local Veteran Administration officers had to approve GI Bill benefits. This process created problems for African American veterans. Of the more than 3,000 VA home loans that had been issued to veterans in Mississippi in the summer of 1947, only two went to Black veterans, according to an Ebony magazine survey at the time. The Federal Housing Administration’s racist housing policies also severely impacted Black WWII veterans' ability to build generational wealth….deepen the racial wealth gap that exists today. (Read More: Pathways to Generational Wealth for Black Americans and The Inconvenient Conversation - Race-Based Life Insurance Premiums)
Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina
Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said that “This is an opportunity for America to repair an egregious fault. Hopefully, it can also begin to lay a foundation that will help break the cycle of poverty among those people who are the descendants of those who made sacrifices to preserve this democracy.”
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts (White American) a Marine veteran who served four tours during the Iraq War, said: “There are a lot of Black Americans who are feeling the effects of this injustice today, even though it was originally perpetrated 70 years ago.”
Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia
A Senate bill was to be introduced later this month by Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, (African American) the son of a WWII veteran. “We’ve all seen how these inequities have trickled down over time,” Warnock said, adding that the bill “represents a major step toward righting this injustice.”
We Thank Our Political Leaders
We are very grateful as Americans for the leadership of Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, and Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia.