“What Are We Worth?”
A Voice from the South,
Anna Julia Cooper
As workers, the women were among the first generation of African Americans to seek job opportunities under federal affirmative action strategies that were designed to redress past patterns and practices of race and gender discrimination. As a result of black political protest, legal advocacy, and electoral pressure, civil rights legislation was passed by congress to ensure federal protections for equal access to society’s resources. In the area of employment, the federal government implemented policies and programs that increased as well as provided equal job opportunities for African Americans, in both the public and private sectors of the American economy. Those policies and programs focused on three major areas of equal access: job opportunities through affirmative action hiring and promotion, job training and placement in traditional and nontraditional work, and neighborhood-based job programs that strengthen the human capital of local communities.
Affirmative action strategies are intended to eliminate discriminatory employment patterns and practices. However, as strategies they do not eliminate deep-seated ideas and beliefs upon which discriminatory patterns and practices are based, and for which blacks are presumed inferior to whites and women unequal to men. These ideas continue to germinate in employment, even with the presence of affirmative action policies and programs. Nevertheless, the women had to earn a living for themselves and their families. They took advantage of affirmative action opportunities. Some entered the private sector under affirmative action hiring policies. Others worked in black communities through various government-sponsored programs. And, as working artists, several