For The Record

In 1865, Black Americans owned just 0.5% of the nation’s total wealth. More than 150 years later, the number is almost as dismal: between 1% and 2%, according to Mehrsa Baradaran, author of The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap.

“To say that our public policy efforts to eradicate the wealth gap have been a total failure is an understatement,” Baradaran said in Richmond Law’s annual Emroch Lecture in September. “In each historical moment where wealth was being created through legislation — the Homestead Act, FHA mortgage credit, GI Bill loans — Black communities were shut out of land and wealth accumulation, specifically through legal mechanisms, racial covenants, and other such things.”

Baradaran, professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, argued for “meaningful reforms that get to the root of the problem.”

The Emroch Lecture Series is funded by the family of Emanuel Emroch, R’28 and L’31, founder of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. This year’s lecture was particularly appropriate, according to Dean Wendy Perdue, “given Mr. Emroch’s commitment to justice and equality.”