500 Years of the Racial Wealth Gap: A Timeline

Explore the interactive timeline!

Choose “Download this document” to download the citations and sources, with links to further reading.

The experiment of America is over two centuries old. Throughout our history, systems were designed that isolate and separate us, and that empower a select few—based on the invention of race—with the privilege of innovation, creativity, and power.

Policies, laws and practices have conferred advantages and disadvantages along racial lines—including in education, jobs, housing, public infrastructure and health. As a result, racial disparities exist across all indicators of success. Median Black household income in 2017 was $38,183 while the median white household income was $61,363—a gap of $23,180. Data from the Urban Institute showed that, in 2016, median white household wealth was $171,000 compared to median Black household wealth of $17,409.

As we work to close the income and wealth gaps, we must honestly and openly reckon with this history and its implications on the current context.

Explore the timeline, which seeks to answer three questions:

What policies and events created and maintained the racial wealth gap?

What efforts have been made to repair past harm?

How have Black and white wealth and homeownership rates changed over time?

And, download the sources document for citations and further reading. If you’re interested in a printable, poster-sized version of the timeline, reach out to us at

We used the timeline in a number of in-person sessions, and printed it as a 9’ poster. If you’d like to do so, send the linked document, “Wealth Gap Timeline,” to FedEx and ask them to print it in color, sized 36” by 108”.

Banner Photo: Dream • Empower • Question • Study by Pete Railand – Graphic from the 2014 Liberating Learning portfolio

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