In Louisiana in the 1930s, white teachers and principals were making an average salary of $ 1,165 a year. Colored teachers and principals were making $ 499 a year, forty-three percent of what the white ones were…In neighboring Mississippi, white teachers and principals were making $ 630 a year, while the colored ones were paid a third of that— $ 215 a year, hardly more than field hands. But knowing that didn’t ease the burden of the Fosters’ lives, get their children through college, or allow them to build assets to match their status and education.
The disparity in pay, reported without apology in the local papers for all to see, would have far-reaching effects. It would mean that even the most promising of colored people, having received next to nothing in material assets from their slave foreparents, had to labor with the knowledge that they were now being underpaid by more than half, that they were so behind it would be all but impossible to accumulate the assets their white counterparts could, and that they would, by definition, have less to leave succeeding generations than similar white families. Multiplied over the generations, it would mean a wealth deficit between the races that would require a miracle windfall or near asceticism on the part of colored families if they were to have any chance of catching up or amassing anything of value. Otherwise, the chasm would continue, as it did for blacks as a group even into the succeeding century. The layers of accumulated assets built up by the better-paid dominant caste, generation after generation, would factor into a wealth disparity of white Americans having an average net worth ten times that of black Americans by the turn of the twenty-first century, dampening the economic prospects of the children and grandchildren of both Jim Crow and the Great Migration before they were even born.