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Since its founding in 1920, the Phyllis Wheatley Social Center had served as the recreational and social hub of Fort Wayne's African American community.Originally funded by the National Recreation Association, the Wheatley Center affiliated with the Fort Wayne Community Chest in 1925.In 1932, using local funding provided by Federated Relief Agencies, the center established an annex, separate from its 421 Douglass Avenue address, at 503 East Breckenridge Street to provide shelter and meals for needy African American men.The annex accommodated as many as forty men per night; on the average the center provided seventy-five meals daily.PEGGY SEIGEL For black Americans seeking a place in the urban Midwest economy, the thirty years leading up to the August 1963 March on Washington were decades of hard-won gains amidst systemic discrimination.Black citizens suffered disproportional poverty and unemployment during the worst years of the Depression.While they did not question the Roosevelt administration's solid allegiance to segregation, for the first time they felt that they had allies at the national level in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet" who would press for civil rights.New Deal programs also gave the Wheatley Center new energy and purpose.

For the first time, several major industries hired blacks for skilled jobs at good wages, and federal regulations established anti-discrimination policies.Researchers have described as well a black population so weakened by complacency and financial depression that by 1963 it had become "a kind of social drag on the community." This study will build upon these earlier analyses by looking more closely at patterns of discrimination and protest beginning in the New Deal years and continuing until the national March on Washington in the late summer of 1963.I will examine how leaders of the Phyllis Wheatley Social Center/Fort Wayne Urban League worked to open new employment opportunities for black workers during World War II, and how liberal paternalism contributed to the loss of these gains in the 1950s and early 1960s.African Americans were to learn, however, that regulations did not eliminate the color bar that confined them to the lowest paying and least secure jobs.Despite some wartime gains, black citizens in the postwar years once again found themselves in segregated workplaces, disproportionately trapped on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.WPA relief projects channeled through the Wheatley Center supported the WPAs educational mission and promoted organization building.

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