Nancy Harriette Lee began her life in an era of great change that mobilized the vast majority of American families with viable incomes; and leave behind the majority of "the least of us" lacking the nurture, inspiration, motivation, education and/or opportunities to move on or up in America. Her life-long social work interests were essentially summarized in the first annual NAACP report in the year 1911. (See Menu Below entitled: Assets & Liabilities).
By the time Nancy Lee was a teenager growing up in Ohio, ... anti-Black sentiment in America as reflected in states like Indiana and Ohio were no longer social issues but that of survival by people cognizant as to what eventually happened to the native Americans. The arrests, beatings and even lynching of African-Americans was a daily occurrence in the world Nancy was born into. She witnessed first-hand the attitudes and behaviors of a dominant society with the capabilities and will to categorize, classify and segregate millions of people as inferior human beings.
The world watched in awe as robed members of the Ku Klux Klan emerged as the premier role model for European brown shirts and black shirts in the use of terror as a tactic to control people they did not like. And, Nazi Germany soon surpassed the ruthless behavior of the American Klan; excepting their exclusionary public and private policies were based on ethnicity rather than simply color. They deliberately sought to eradicate and ignore all evidence of Jewish contributions to German society; and thus a new belief system for youth born in generation #65 (births 1920-1949).
Of the approximately 10 million young men (hundreds of combat divisions) in Germany's armed forces during 1939-1945, ... the bulk were born in generation #65 Hitler was born in generation #63 (1870-1899) and could not have achieved his madman ends without them. As Nancy Lee so wryly noted, ... societal attitudes toward a minority population can and do often change within a decade for better or worse, ... depending upon who has the power to indoctrinate youth.
The social issues surrounding the causes and obstacles in the institution of marriage among African-Americans released from generations of chattel slavery were never studied or even contemplated by American social work scholars, .... prior to the 1960s. Post World War I interests more or less focused on anti-Catholicism, and the post World War II interests centered on the effects of anti-Semitism. Men like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nathan Glazier professed themselves to be experts about African-American matters of which neither had knowledge or understanding .... merely empirical data that made them feel superior in what they did know and exploit about "the least of us."
She also acknowledged that self-professed experts like Nathan Glazier all across the nation were considered by government and foundations to be more knowledgeable about the social work needs of African-Americans ... than women like herself. Whether people were legally slaves or freeborn, ... mattered not in the minds of most 2oth century scholars like Stanley Elkins, Daniel Patrick Moniyhan, and Nathan Glazier. Skin color, even among African-Americans, not simply racial and sexual categories and classifications ... mattered most in much of America's mindset as to who, what, when, where and how.
She thus reasoned, ridiculous or not, ... holocaust survivor historians like Stanley Elkins were read by social engineers like Daniel Patrick Monniyhan for policy guidance about survivors of slavery in America rather than the dark complexioned Dr. John Hope Franklin, a fellow Harvard Ph.D. "up from slavery." For Nancy Lee, it is a function of social integration of families and institutions that decides who could or should be motivated, educated and licensed to be a plumber, electrician, liveryman, hair-dresser, and hundreds of other occupations. Youth without basic functional families are quite unlikely to be integrated into a system of societal functions.
Tens of thousands of social service organizations and bureaucratic rule-makers across America in thousands of federal, state, county and municipal offices ... daily rule certain people to be deserving and others not so. In the vast majority of applications for privileges such as professional licenses, ... African-Americans were routinely ruled not deserving, not qualified, not eligible.
And, the point is reinforced by the outcry of rage against D.C. Mayor Marion Barry in the 1970s when he forced the local bureaucracy to issue taxi licenses to Black men in Washington, D.C. that became the first city in America where such men owned their own cabs. Until then, most Black cab owners operated illegally as jitney's for African-Americans.
Few scholars have ever dared tackle the issues raised by unfair rule-making in the 20th century, even in the face of favorable political policies such as did occur via various political authorities in both the 19th and 20th centuries. Rule making transcends the political arena; but is empowered by it. In some cases, one might argue that with some disciplines the rule-makers rule the political climate that sustains the rules they make.
Social inequities and direct impacts on family existence and sustainment, by law, were self-evident to Nancy throughout her adolescent years. The inability to function in Ohio in the transport industry literally forced her father and siblings to migrate to the Pittsburgh region in search of better economic opportunities (of the kind being sought by millions of 20th century immigrants coming into America via Ellis Island).
Nancy Lee's father and mother retired from their labors in Ohio, and moved to the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region after his cousins (Arthur, and offspring (Marion, Fredrick, Nancy. Edward, Vina, Percy, Vina, Clara and Billy) had made the move to new opportunities in the mills and mines of Western Pennsylvania where regulations still allowed African-Americans to be mule drivers and other livery tasks that required licensing. *(Percy joined Barnum and Baily Circus as a Tromboner)
Even before World War II, Nancy Lee observed the growing impact of alcohol addiction among African-Americans up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Region. In the after-math of World War II and many thousands of industrial jobs and cash in the region, she and other concerned social workers worried that local, county, state and even the federal governments were not doing much of anything to stop organized criminal enterprises that supplied heroin addicts with their poisonous passions. In her view, the mother drug that made it feasible and possible was the historic problem of alcohol addiction that had existed even during slavery. Men half out of their minds from drinking moonshine and other alcoholic beverages were easy prey to those pushing drugs such as marijuana and heroin.
In places like Clairton where the U.S. Steel works employed thousands of men with strong backs and uneducated minds, ... heroin appeared as a plague in their midst and by the ending of World War II there were hundreds of heroin users that frequented the bars and night-clubs in apparent states of illusion about themselves and no longer capable of working in the mills and mines that offered employment. Criminal behavior ranging from thefts and burglaries to violent assaults to gain money became common ... and prompted public outcries for police protection. The limited numbers of arrests publicized in the press were a tip of iceberg out of sight about the depths of the problem; and, rarely were any of the drug distributors ever charged or arrested. The constables, police and sheriffs in the Pittsburgh region routinely and publicly often referred to African-American drug addicts as "animals" and made clear their interests were not in preventing drug use but rather incarcerating men and women who were threats to the general public.
From the ending of slavery until the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, African-Americans had always suffered the fear of not being paid for their labors done, and more often than not they received very small amounts of money for domestic services such as washing, ironing, cleaning and yard work.
Nancy Lee paid her way through the University of Pittsburgh doing the work of domestic service for White families in the Pittsburgh region and understood the culture of resentment against even requesting more pay for time and labors required of so-called "cleaning girls." The standard flat-rate of pay for domestic service African-American women on the eve of the historic civil rights laws in 1965 was $6.00 per day plus trolley fare (normally 30 cents).
Nancy noted that many of the White women sought to soothe their conscious by giving their "cleaning girls" gifts of used clothing and artifacts which they expected to be graciously appreciated as better than money. The plight of uneducated and educated Black women by the 1960s was not that of finding work but rather ... getting paid a living wage at least equal to monetary benefits receivable via public welfare.
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