The Economic Status of Negroes

Johnson, Charles S. The Economic Status of Negroes. Fisk University, 1933.

In 1933, the Conference on the Economic Status of the Negro was held on May 11-13 in Washington, D. C. Charles S. Johnson did a wonderful job taking note of all that was said. He did so well that his work, The Economic Status of Negroes, was published by Fisk University—an HBCU, or historic black college

or university. Fisk was one of the first schools for free colored people after the end of the American Civil War, with two of the notable alumni being W. E. B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson.

The conference detailed the experience of negroes in the South, specifically from an economic standpoint. It described the varying lifestyles many negroes lived and discussed how good or bad their experiences were. It was noted, very early on, that negroes often experienced the worst of the hardships of the Great Depression—especially in the South. Negroes were typically the first to be laid off, and it was already difficult for them to get hired. In the South, one-third of negroes worked in agriculture. In a dying occupation such as farm work, the number of negro farm owners decreased dramatically across most Southern states.  Negro farmers faced several obstacles that white farmers did not, and there were many opportunities presented to white farmers that negroes simply did not get. One example is how important credit was to farmers. Negroes were occasionally given loans, but were often made to pay higher interest rates, resulting in greater debt.  Most weren’t given loans at all, due to them not being part of the white-only loan associations and negroes not having any loan associations themselves.