This paper documents black economic progress throughout American history. America’s slaves were highly exploited, far more than many accounts suggest. Elimination of exploitation proceeded in fits and starts over several generations after emancipation. In the generation after 1940, blacks made major progress, narrowing economic differentials between them and others while discriminatory barriers began a real decline. However, black economic progress since about 1970 has been far more uneven, not mainly because of residual racial prejudice but rather largely because government efforts to alleviate poverty and other problems have disproportionately hurt African Americans, destroying robust family lives, leading to reduced workforce participation, and making disproportionate numbers of blacks de facto wards of the state.