By Akilah Davis

November 11, 2021

In honor of Veterans Day, a group of Democratic lawmakers is reviving an effort to pay the families of Black service members who fought on behalf of the nation during World War II for benefits they were denied or prevented from taking full advantage of when they returned home from war.

The new legislative effort would benefit surviving spouses and all living descendants of Black WWII veterans whose families were denied the opportunity to build wealth with housing and educational benefits through the GI Bill.

Since 1944, those benefits have been offered to millions of veterans transitioning to civilian life. But due to racism and discrimination in how they were granted through local Veterans Affairs offices, many Black WWII veterans received substantially less money toward purchasing a home or continuing their education.

A House version was introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic majority whip, and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

“This is an opportunity for America to repair an egregious fault,” said Clyburn of the bill introduced last week. “Hopefully it can also begin to lay a foundation that will help break the cycle of poverty among those people who are the descendants of those who made sacrifices to preserve this democracy.”

The GI Bill’s promise of the American dream kept thousands of Black soldiers from building wealth.

According to Duke University Public Policy professor William Darity, it played a significant role in creating the middle class.

“Unfortunately, it created a white middle class because of the discriminatory application of the legislation. It was disproportionately beneficial to white returning veterans,” Darity said.

He said society is still seeing the effects of it today, as the racial wealth gap persists.