Inequality

Watch AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class

In this revealing documentary, veteran journalist Bob Herbert examines the often heroic efforts of black families to pursue the American dream in the face of unrelenting barriers. Watch the trailer.

Watch AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class

AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class will premiere to a national audience on April 25 at 9 p.m. ET on the WORLD channel. You can also watch an extended version at PBS’s Chasing the Dream website.

Have African-Americans had a fair shot at the American dream? AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class probes the harsh and often brutal discrimination that has made it extremely difficult for African-Americans to establish a middle-class standard of living.

Bob Herbert, who has been covering political, racial and social issues for decades as a reporter and columnist for The New York Times as well as other media outlets, offers an intimate view of the barriers faced by striving black families. As he notes in the film’s opening, “Whites talk about working hard and playing by the rules. But blacks have always had to play by a different, hateful set of hideously unfair rules. Working hard has never been enough for black Americans to flourish.” Through dramatic historical footage and deeply moving personal interviews, AGAINST ALL ODDS explores the often frustrated efforts of black families to pursue the American dream.

Today, many middle-class families are still digging out of the recession that followed the Great Crash of 2007-08 and although some are doing better, black wealth remains meager compared to that of white Americans. Nearly 40 percent of black children in America are poor, and for every dollar of wealth in the hands of the average white family, the typical black family has only a little more than a nickel.

This revealing and sometimes shocking documentary connects the dots of American history to show how the traditional route up the economic ladder — attaining a job that pays a living wage and then buying a house that becomes a financial asset for future generations — has been systematically denied to black families. Reduced educational opportunity, rampant employment discrimination, the inequitable application of the GI bill, mortgage redlining and virulent housing segregation are among the injustices that have converged to limit the prosperity of black families from generation to generation.

Herbert speaks with a number of prominent African-Americans — including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, Maya Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions, Marc Morial of the National Urban League, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), renowned psychologist Alvin Poussaint and Angela Glover Blackwell of Policy Link — who reveal generational stories of profoundly damaging economic and social prejudice.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class is being presented in conjunction with Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America, a coordinated multiplatform public media initiative from WNET and is a production of The Schumann Media Center, Inc., Public Square Media, Inc., Okapi Productions, LLC and Bob Herbert. Written and produced by Bob Herbert. Producer, Tom Casciato. Executive producer, Sally Roy. Executive Editor, Bob Herbert. Executive in Charge, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill.