The great W.E.B. DuBois predicted in his classic The Souls of Black Folk that “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” He was right. America has grappled with the insidious evil of racism throughout the past century. We have made important progress in advancing civil rights and improving race relations. But we know we have much more to do to eradicate all the barriers to racial equality and harmony in our country. Almost one hundred years after DuBois made his prediction, the “color line” is still a sad and central fact of American life.
We at the Brookings Institution believe that as we approach the turn of a new century—and a new millennium—we have the opportunity and obligation to bring renewed energy, focus, and commitment to resolving the racial issues that still divide our great nation. The diverse and distinguished group of contributors to this issue of the Brookings Review offer their perspectives on the topic of “Black America: Progress and Prospects.” I believe the scholarship, the experience, and the insights they share in these pages will make a positive and lasting contribution to this most important of public debates.