“Free in 63.” In the late 1950s, that phrase could be heard among any gathering of black activists and civil rights leaders working tirelessly toward the cause of equality in America. It also became the rallying cry that helped bring more than 250,000 people to the U.S. capital in one of the country’s landmark demonstrations, the March On Washington.
Fifty years later, by most quantifiable measurements, Black America is still not free. Although they make up only 13 percent of the population, African-Americans make up 38 percent of the United States’ prison population. Almost 30 percent of blacks live in poverty, and 18 percent under 65-years-old lack health insurance coverage. At 13.7 percent, blacks bear a disproportionate share of the unemployment burden, and with only 13 percent pursuing higher education, they make up a small sect of the country’s educated elite.
Faced with numbers like this, can Black America truly be considered free in 2013? It depends on whom you ask.