Executive Summary

It has been over a half-century since the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation targeting the scourge of racial discrimination. Unfortunately, too many black families today suffer from a non-racial scourge – conditions that undermine upward mobility and perpetuate unacceptable levels of poverty, crime and other social ills. The vaunted social safety net has become a web that ensnares black families in a vicious cycle of dependency.


Project 21, a network of black leaders from across the nation, has identified 10 key areas for reform and offers 57 concrete, budget-neutral recommendations to remove barriers blocking blacks from reaching their full potential and ensuring the American dream is attainable for all.

What is Blueprint Compliant?

Project 21 Areas of Focus and Key Recommendations


Although the black unemployment rate is historically low, it is still nearly double the white unemployment rate. All too often, blacks are still denied jobs opportunities – not due to racism committed by individuals – but due to regulations that were created for the explicit purpose of preventing them from competing with white workers. Blacks have not always experienced higher unemployment rates than whites. During the 1930s, blacks were employed at modestly higher rates. This was due to their willingness to work for lower wages and work longer hours to build better lives for their families – similar to migrant
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Education is considered the key to upward mobility, yet many black students remain trapped in failing schools. And they are significantly more likely to be trapped in such schools than white students. In Newark, New Jersey, for example, where blacks make up over half the student population, just 6% of black students attend the city’s top-scoring schools for math. By contrast, 85% of white students are enrolled in such schools. In Portland and Seattle, black students are four times more likely to attend a school scoring in the bottom 20% in math than white students.[i] Black students often find themselves
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Improving neighborhood safety and protecting businesses located in black communities is critically important to improving the quality of life for blacks. But strained relations between law enforcement and black communities has made this difficult. In Baltimore, for example, homicides soared in the wake of criticism of the Baltimore police department due to the police custody death of Freddie Gray. In 2017, there were more than 300 murders in the city. Many residents believe the higher homicide rate was due to a police decision to try to ease tensions by reducing patrols.[i] There are more than 900,000 sworn police officers nationwide,
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The failure of K-12 school systems in preparing black students for college is compounded further by college admissions and support practices that set black students up to fail. Colleges are admitting many black students who are unprepared for rigorous college environments. They’re often accepted with lower SAT and ACT scores, fewer AP course credits and lower (or inflated) high school GPAs than their counterparts at the same school. At the same time, colleges are failing to provide black students with the individualized support they need to overcome the deficiencies of their K-12 educations to give them their best chance of
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Law enforcement agencies have become too focused on revenue-generating activities. These activities have not only hurt minorities disproportionately, but strained relationships between police departments and the communities they serve. Fines, fees and forfeitures are tools that were intended to help officers fight crime. But because they also provide funding for police departments, they tend to be over-used. Among the most overused of these tools is civil asset forfeiture. Forfeiture allows officers to seize property that they believe may have been involved in a crime. This means the owner of the property need not be convicted of a crime – nor
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Federal, state and local excise taxes hurt blacks disproportionately because they require the poor to pay a higher portion of their incomes in taxes. Excise taxes include gasoline taxes. They also include so-called “sin taxes” that are imposed ostensibly to curb consumption of unhealthy products such as alcohol, sugary beverages and tobacco. But sin taxes are less about promoting public health than about generating government revenue. For one thing, they aren’t very effective in reducing demand for unhealthy products. The demand for such products tends to be less sensitive to price changes than other products. This is especially true for
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The influx of millions of people into our country illegally has strained public services and placed a disproportionate burden on black communities. In education, black students are more likely to suffer the consequences of expanding class sizes to accommodate immigrants than are white students. According to a 2017 report by the Center for Immigration Studies, 23% of students in public schools today are from immigrant households. That represents a more than four-fold increase from 1980, when they represented just 7% of the student population.[i] White students are less likely to feel the effects of this because they are less likely
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The church has long been the most important institution in the black community. During slavery, black churches founded by freedmen and freedwomen established schools for black children. They fought slavery and provided shelter to many fleeing slavery. During reconstruction, black churches sent missionaries to teach former slaves how to read and write and helped them establish their own churches. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, black churches led the fight for civil rights. Today, black churches provide stability for black families that often lack it. Currently, 67 percent of black children are raised in households with just one parent. The
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One of the key goals of the Civil Rights Movement was to ensure that every black citizen had a voice in selecting elected officials at the federal, state and local level. That was the intent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote,” said then-President Lyndon Johnson upon signing the landmark legislation. “Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.”[i] From the late 19th century to the present, systematic efforts have been undertaken to prevent black
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Excessive regulation stifles economic growth and has a disproportionate negative impact on small businesses. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that federal regulation alone costs the U.S. economy up to $1.9 trillion in lost productivity and added expenses. It estimates that the cost of regulation is 20% greater for firms with 50 or fewer employers – the type of business most commonly owned by black entrepreneurs.[i] Excessive regulation not only drives up consumer prices and diminishes job opportunities but raises consumer prices and sometimes prevent products from coming to market that save lives. Blacks deserve a better deal in regulation.
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Project 21 was established in 1992 to increase the diversity of black opinion represented in the mainstream media by promoting black conservative and libertarian leaders.


Project 21 participants have been quoted, interviewed and published in the media over 40,000 times since the program’s inception, including in such outlets as the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, PBS, BET, TVOne, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Westwood One and Rush Limbaugh Show.


Project 21 participants are black leaders in business, politics, the clergy, the media and academia and live all over the United States. They share a common desire to make America a better place for blacks, and all Americans, to live and work. Project 21 members do this in a variety of ways in their own communities, and, through Project 21, by writing opinion editorials for newspapers, participating in public policy discussions on radio and television, by participating in policy panels, by giving speeches before student, business and community groups and by advising policymakers at the national, state and local levels.