Black History and Black Futures

While celebrating Black history, we also work to create a more equitable future.

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Black History Month is a time to celebrate influential leaders and
impactful moments of the past. But celebrating Black history is not enough.

United Way continues to work toward a future where Black Americans have
the same access to employment, education, health care and housing as their
white neighbors. 

As part of that work, below we highlight an important moment from Black
history that aligns with our focus areas of health, education and financial
stability, outline a few current challenges faced by Black Americans, and
explain what United Way is doing to help solve these problems. 

Health

Moment in History

July 9, 1893: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful open-heart surgery at the black-owned,
interracial hospital he founded in Chicago. Both Dr. Williams and his patient
were Black.

Current Challenges

But since Dr. Williams’ groundbreaking work, health outcomes for the
Black population are still significantly worse than for whites.

     Nearly 100,000 fewer Black Americans would die each year, if the Black mortality rate was the same as it is for whites.

      A Black individual will live three fewer years on average than a white person with the same income.

      Black Americans are nearly 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.

United Way’s Work

United Way believes that an individual’s race, ZIP code, or income should never be a
barrier to quality health. We work to address health inequity by:

       Fighting for improved access to health care coverage

       Creating exercise and recreation opportunities in low-income and segregated neighborhoods

       Making it easier for people to access substance abuse programs

       Setting up mobile food pantries

       Supporting the mental health needs of veterans

Education

Moment in History

April 23, 1951: 16-year-old Barbara Rose Johns leads a strike to protest segregation and poor conditions at her Virginia high school. Her leadership inspires local lawyers to sue the federal government, a case that eventually becomes part of the landmark Brown v. Board decision.

Current Challenges

The Supreme Court ruled school segregation was unconstitutional in
Brown v. Board of Education. But segregation in public schools has only risen
since 1996. This kind of structural racism along with institutional racism has
hurt the educational outcomes of Blacks students.

      The graduation rate for Black students (79%) is lower than the national average.

      Schools with 90% or more students of color receive $733 less per student.

      Only 57% of Black students have access to the full range of math and science courses needed for college-readiness.

      More than 70% of Black students were learning remotely in fall 2020, compared to 40% of white students.

United Way’s Work

United Way fights to shift the odds for students of color and those in
low-income areas. Our work includes:

      Recruiting volunteers to read with preschool and elementary students

      Providing after-school programs and extracurricular activities and clubs

      Supporting middle and high school students through graduation

      Connecting students with volunteer mentors and tutors

Financial Stability

Moment in History

May 12, 1968: Thousands of Black women, led by Coretta Scott King,
begin the first demonstrations in the
Poor People’s Campaign. After building Resurrection City on the National Mall, they stayed in temporary shacks for over a month in a fight for jobs, unemployment insurance and a higher minimum wage.

Current Challenges

Decades of segregation, discrimination and low wages have impacted the
financial stability of Black families in the U.S. Since 1992, the racial wealth
gap has grown.

      The net worth of a typical Black family is $17,150, compared to $171,000 for white families.

      Only 44% of Black families own a home, compared to 72% of white families.

United Way’s Work

United Way battles chronic unemployment, homelessness and financial
illiteracy; issues which disproportionately affect Black Americans. In April,
United Way Worldwide created a
relief fund for Black Americans harmed by the financial devastation of the pandemic. Our ongoing work includes:

      Providing free tax preparation services for middle- and low-income families

      Offering financial education and coaching, especially to unbanked individuals

      Training adults for careers in thriving industries, like health care

      Providing job counseling and application assistance to the unemployed

You can be a part of this important work in Knox County. Use the email
sign up on this page to learn how you can give, advocate or volunteer to ensure
that every single person, no matter their race, can thrive in our community.


Give to United Way

Your generous contribution will enable us to keep fighting for the health, education and financial stability of every person in your community and around the world.

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