Civil Rights Museum’s report reveals high childhood poverty rate in Shelby County

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In an effort to improve the city, the National Civil Rights Museum released a poverty report that details how African-Americans have fared in Memphis and Shelby County over the last 50 years.

During a packed meeting and on the heels of commemorating the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was revealed that African-American poverty has remained very high in Memphis.

50 years later, and we're still dealing with some of the same issues that Dr. King died for. It's appalling, but it's also a wake up call.

Dr. Elena Deleavega, says more African Americans have white collar jobs than they did in the 1960's, but it does not equate to a higher income.

"Even though African-Americans have gained an education and are moving towards better jobs. They are still making, and have made for decades, about 50 percent of what whites make in this area," Dr. Deleavega said. "There is absolutely no reason why this should be happening."

The incarceration rate has also gone up 50 percent since 1980, while its fallen slightly for whites.

High incarceration rates have a huge impact on our community and childhood poverty. If you take men out of the community, you're breaking up homes, right? If you take men out of the work place, you're increasing unemployment figures," Dr. Deleavega said.

In 2016, 16 percent of Shelby County families were in poverty. Numbers show that 5.5 percent of them were white, while 24.3 percent were African-Americans.

48 percent of black children in the county are in poverty.

"When we know that one out of two African-American children in Shelby County is growing up in poverty, that's certainly not progress. To me, that statistic alone should be enough for us to be concerned and do something," Dr. Deleavega said.

So, where do we go from here?

"We don't want the world watching us April 4 and not do something April 5. We must pick up where we left off and do the work on social justice in Memphis, TN," she said.