Arthur S. Siegel/Library of Congress

Detroit neighborhood

Profiles: Joseph Jackson

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 

Born 1924

They took my Christmas savings when the bank crashed. The bank closed, and when I went to pick it up, they were closed. I had to be 5 or 6. I had a little savings account, and I’d put a nickel or a dime in the account, and I went to the bank, and the bank was closed. That bank never did open. 

I worked for an iceman. I used to carry the ice with tongs. He lived in a little old shack there, but he used to sell ice. I must have been 6 or 7. I couldn’t carry big chunks of ice. I got little ones but couldn’t carry the big ones. 

People were on welfare. Everybody was on welfare it looked like. We were on welfare, too. I remember little guys used to have wagons, and you’d go to the welfare store and get little foods. I don’t remember what you were getting. 

We were eating regular. There was always a little bit of money in the house. I didn’t know how much. They were poor. Black people would send down South and get their families to come up North and live with them until they got a job somewhere. Ford was the popular plant. Ford had a couple of plants, one in Rouge and one on Woodward.

Interview by Michael Lawson

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

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We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

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Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.