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Inside Collection (Textbook):

Textbook by: Ruth Dunn. E-mail the author

# African Americans

Module by: Ruth Dunn. E-mail the author

Summary: Minority Studies: A Brief Sociological Text is a very, very brief textbook suitable for use as a supplemental or stand-alone text in a college-level minority studies Sociology course. Any instructor who would choose to use this as a stand-alone textbook would need to supply a large amount of statistical data and other pertinent and extraneous Sociological material in order to "flesh-out" fully this course. Each module/unit of Minority Studies: A Brief Sociological Text contains the text, course objectives, a study guide, key terms and concepts, a lecture outline, assignments, and a reading list.

## A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes 1944

## The Middle Passage and the Triangle Trade

African Americans have lived on the North American continent for more than 350 years. They were our only completely involuntary immigrants. The Middle Passage was the route of the slave ships (called blackbirds) from Africa to the New World. It was the “middle” portion of the Triangular Trade (1500s-early 1800s) which was the movement of ships and goods from North America to the Caribbean to Africa and back. The Triangle Trade as it has also been called exchanged North American products and raw materials for Caribbean products and raw materials, including tobacco and rum, and then exchanged those for African slaves. Many people died during the Middle Passage from starvation, illness, and even murder. There are some reputable modern scholars who believe that as many as 250 million human beings died during the Middle Passage or were enslaved in the New World between 1500 and 1850 where black human beings were auctioned like cattle. (See Slavery in America: Historical Overview by Ronald L. F. Davis, Ph. D., California State University-Northridge; for a video lecture about the book Slavery by Another Name by Doulgas Blackmon, please go to the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition or click here.)

## Free Blacks in Early America

However, not all blacks were enslaved in Colonial America. Fort Mose was the first free, all-black settlement in the US. Founded in 1604, it was Located a few miles from St. Augustine, Florida. Nonetheless, most blacks were not so lucky and were enslaved in the millions. In 1805 Toussaint the Liberator, with his revolutionary black soldiers, liberated Haiti and outlawed slavery. Their “inferior” status notwithstanding, African Americans served their country in the Revolutionary War. Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave and merchant seaman, was the first person to die in the Revolutionary War and Agrippa Hull was a free black and Revolutionary War veteran. Some northern religious institutions offered opportunities to African Americans. Absalom Jones was a free black and founder in 1810 of the First Free African Church of Philadelphia which was the first African American church in the United States. Lemuel Haynes was the first African American to be ordained in the United States by the Congregationalist Church in the early 19th century.

## Pro-Slavery Movement

But the pro-slavery movement had powerful advocates. In 1850 Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act which required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive/runaway slaves. Click here for a timeline of the Fugitive Slave Act. The plethora of runaway slave posters attests to anti-black spirit alive in the land. (For some images of these posters see: New York Public Library Digital Gallery; $200 Reward:Runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad in Kansas Territory; Keep a Sharp Eye Out for Kidnappers; Ran away from my farm and$20 Reward; My Mulatto Boy George; Sophia Gordon; \$2,500 REWARD.)

John C. Calhoun was a powerful political force in the United States from 1808 until his death in 1850. He was twice Vice-President of the United States (in 1824 under John Quincy Adams and again in 1828 with Andrew Jackson) and had been a senator from South Carolina from 1832-1843 and again from 1845-1850. He was always a staunch defender of plantation system of slavery. In 1837, he delivered a speech “Slavery a Positive Good” in which argued that blacks are better off as slaves in the US than as “savages” in Africa. (See also: John C. Calhoun: A Brief Introduction.)

Compare [the slave’s] condition with the tenants of the poor houses . . . in Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave . . . in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse.

## Anti-Slavery Movement and the Civil War

There were also powerful voices raised against slavery. Although unsuccessful, John Adams spent much of his life fighting against slavery; he urged that an anti-slavery clause be inserted into The Declaration of Independence. John Quincy Adams, also an abolitionist like his father, was the attorney for the defense in the La Amistad trial.

Frederick Douglass was the writer of one of the most famous “slave narratives” Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. He was a runaway slave and anti-slavery lecturer in the North. On July 5, 1852 Frederick Douglass gave a famous speech titled “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro” which was given at an anti-slavery convention in Rochester, New York.

Blacks and whites banded together in the North to abolish slavery, and in 1845 they held an anti-slavery convention which was attended by Douglass. In December 1859, the fiery abolitionist John Brown executed a raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in order to steal weapons and arm slaves for a revolt.

Many free and fugitive blacks along with some anti-slavery whites banded together to create the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. She made 19 trips into the slave-holding South and freed over 300 people from Southern slavery. (For more information about the Underground Railroad, please visit the following websites: The Underground Railroad; The Underground Railroad from PBS; The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.)

The American Civil War (1861-1865) was largely the result of the clash between slavery and anti-slavery groups. (See American Civil War Summary for a brief view of this conflict.) Free and freed blacks were not allowed to serve in the Union Army until after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, but many served with great distinction in the last years of the war. After the end of the Civil War three new constitutional amendments were ratified: the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865 abolished slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment in July 1868 gave citizenship to former slaves and granted equal protection under the law to all citizens; the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870 gave former slave the right to vote. But freedom did not bring equality—segregation laws went into effect as soon as Reconstruction ended. The Jim Crowsegregation laws that were instituted after Reconstruction were named after British actor Charles Matthews who performed in blackface as a character named “Jim Crow.” Many African Americans tried to prove to fearful, racist whites that “Negroes” were deserving of social and economic equality; however, their early efforts were largely in vain. Henry Highland Garnet began a failed back-to-Africa movement toward the end of the 19th century. Booker T. Washington was an educator and leader of reform movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. He argued for vocational training as a method of bringing economic prosperity to African Americans. (See also: Booker T. Washington Delivers the 1895 Atlanta Compromise Speech; Up from Slavery: An Autobiography; “Cast Down Your Buckets;” “Of Mister Booker T. Washington and Others” from The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois.). Washington’s argument was in direct contradiction of the position of William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) DuBois who was a founder of the NAACP and a contemporary of Washington’s. DuBois argued for academic education to propel blacks into economic prosperity and into equality with whites. W.E.B. DuBois, decrying American racism, renounced his American citizenship when he was 90 and moved to Ghana in West Africa where he died in 1963 at the age of 95. In the 1910s and 1920s Marcus Garvey founded a failed back-to-Africa movement. (For more information about Garvey, please visit the following websites: The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project at UCLA;

## Eyes on the Prize—the Civil Rights Movement

The civil disobedience of Rosa Parks led to the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott which lasted for an entire year and generated the first significant change in the Jim Crow segregation laws by desegregating the Montgomery city busses. In 1957, Dr. King and a host of other black leaders in the American South banded together to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which was dedicated to non-violent civil disobedience as practiced by Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights movement largely began in the African American churches including Ebenezer Baptist Church where King served as the pastor beginning in 1960.

Freedom riders integrated lunch stands all across the American South but the sit ins began in 1960 with the Greensboro Four.

The story of the Greensboro sit-ins
By JIM SCHLOSSER, News & Record Staff Writer
Originally published in 1998
On Feb. 1, 1960, the Greensboro Four, as they would later be called, felt isolated and alone as they sat at that whites-only lunch counter at the Woolworth Store on South Elm Street.
They were seeking more than what they ordered—sodas, coffee, doughnuts. They were attacking the social order of the time. The unwritten rules of society required black people to stay out of white-owned restaurants, to use only designated drinking fountains and restrooms, to sit in the rear of Greensboro city buses, in a separate balcony at the Center Theatre and in segregated bleachers during sports events at War Memorial Stadium.
The four black youths—Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond, all still teenagers and all freshmen on academic scholarships at N.C. A&T State University—had entered the unknown. McCain, who grew up in Washington and spent one year attending Greensboro's Dudley High School, says he expected to be arrested, beaten to a pulp or worse.

In 1963 Dr. King led a march on Washington D.C. where he delivered what is arguably his greatest speech: “I Have A Dream.” (For more information about this event, please visit the following websites: MLK Online; Congress of Racial Equality: March on Washington.)

## The Declining Significance of Race

As with the end of slavery, the dissolution of the Jim Crow laws and greater equality did not lead to the kind of life that most African Americans envisioned. In many cases, greater equality has led to greater problems. African-American Sociologist William Julius Wilson1, 2argues that the changing institutions and changing economic structures in the United States have changed race relations to the extent that “the previous barriers [to integration and equality of opportunity] were usually designed to control and restrict the entire black population, the new barriers create hardships essentially for the black underclass; whereas the old barriers were based explicitly on racial motivations derived from intergroup contact, the new barriers have racial significance only in their consequences not in their origins.”3 In other words, the patterns of pathology are a consequence of the new economic structure in which “class subordination is of greater moment than “racial oppression in the economic sphere.”4Wilson argues, “class has become more important than race in determining black access to privilege and power” which clearly supports the notion that the egregiously low numbers of black business ownership is indicative of lack of power and privilege in the black community.5

Wilson, in “The Declining Significance of Race” argues that the United States is in the last of three stages of race relations: “1) preindustrial—the plantation economy and racial-caste oppression; 2) industrial—industrial expansion, class conflict, and racial oppression; 3) modern industrial—progressive transition from racial inequalities to class inequalities.”6 In other words, the United States has moved from direct institutional discrimination wherein skin color was almost completely determinant of a person’s life chances to indirect institutional discrimination which, although latent, is more insidious and has racism as a consequence rather than a goal.7 Wilson’s basic argument in this article is that the form of the economy determines the form of the “structural relations between racial and class groups and which thereby produce different patterns of intergroup interaction.”8

Wilson further argues, that the government must provide leadership and support for affirmative action in order for the economic inroads made by minorities to hold.9“The problem for blacks today, in terms of government practices, is no longer one of legalized racial inequality. Rather the problem for blacks especially the black underclass, is that the government is not organized to deal with the new barriers imposed by structural changes in the economy.”10 Government, Wilson argues, seems unable (unwilling?) to intervene among the at-risk lower-class blacks and the black underclass in order to prepare them to compete on a level playing field for those “good,” or first tier, jobs that their middle class black brothers and sisters are already accessing.11 The “illusion that, when the needs of the black middle class were met, so were the needs of the entire black community” is apparently still very much with us even though, “the current problems of lower-class blacks are substantially related to fundamental structural changes in the economy. A history of discrimination and oppression created a huge black underclass, and the technological and economic revolutions have combined to insure it a permanent status.”12 The data on unemployment in the black community, on poverty levels in the black community, and on the dearth of black business ownership support and are supported by Wilson’s theory that is the economy that drives inequality not just the color of one’s skin.

Harrison and Bennett maintain that residential segregation leads to distrust, fear, and animosity on both sides, planting the seeds of discriminatory and pejorative treatment.13

In “The Truly Disadvantaged” Wilson argues that, “unlike the present period [1987], inner-city communities prior to 1960 exhibited the features of social organization—”“including a sense of community, positive neighborhood identification, and explicit norms and sanctions against aberrant behavior.”14 Since 1960, Wilson argues, the inner-city has experienced severe social dislocation including: “1) the increase in the number of youth; 2) extreme unemployment; 3) very high school-dropout rates; 4) hyperghettoization”15“ 5) a severe lack of social organization; 6) poverty; 7) welfare dependency; 8) criminal activity; 9) unemployability.”16

Wilson discusses two factors , both of which are components of hyperghettoization, which may seen as causative agents in the pathology of the inner-city:

. . . concentration effects and social buffers. The former refers to the constraints and opportunities associated with living in a neighborhood in which the population is overwhelmingly socially disadvantaged—constraints and opportunities that include the kinds of ecological niches that the residents of these communities occupy in terms of access to jobs, availability of marriage partners, and exposure to conventional role models. The latter refers to the presence of a sufficient number of working- and middle-class professional families to absorb the shock or cushion the effect of uneven economic growth and periodic recessions on inner-city neighborhoods. . . . the removal of these families made it more difficult to sustain the basic institutions in the inner city (including churches, stores, schools, recreational facilities, etc.) in the face of prolonged joblessness.17

Wilson further contends that the extreme levels of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and single-mother headed families are a concomitant of that very joblessness. The black “male marriageable pool” has been reduced because “young black women are confronting a shrinking pool of ‘marriageable’ (that is economically stable) men.”18 It seems quite clear that another factor in the reduction of the black male marriageable pool is the high rate of incarceration of black men. Indeed, it is probable that the incarceration rates are also tightly tied to joblessness.

Wilson maintains that the government must intervene in order to raise the underclass out of its disadvantaged position. Like Tumin,19 Wilson believes that creaming is inhibited by stratification—the underclass and its potential talent remains hidden from and therefore unused by the wider society.

## A Piece of the Pie

Stanley Lieberson’s article, “A Piece of the Pie” deals with the different paths taken (available?) to black Americans and white-ethnic immigrants since 1880. His primary thesis is that “the new Europeans have ‘made it’ to a degree far in excess of that which would have been expected or predicted at the time of their arrival here. It is also equally apparent that blacks have not.”20 Lieberson argues that migrants from different sources will have different opportunities for jobs—emigrants from countries with high standards of living will have relatively higher skill levels and will be able to demand relatively higher wages overall, than their counterparts from countries with lower standards, or black Americans from the rural, low-standard-of-living, post-reconstruction South. Furthermore, Lieberson maintains that Bonacich’s split-labor market theory applies as a controlling factor in the kinds of jobs available for new immigrants and Southern blacks. However, Lieberson contends that, because there are “no solid wage data for the groups in ”“comparable work which also take into account the cost of living encountered in each [sending] nation and South”21 from the late nineteenth century from which to make comparisons between black Americans and white-ethnic immigrants. Lieberson uses, instead, life expectancy to compare standards of living.22

In 1880 the life expectancy for male and female emigrants from South-Central-Eastern Europe (SCE) and for black male and female Americans was 27 and 29, and 22 and 26 years respectively. Lieberson’s life expectancy chart clearly shows that, from 1880-1920 the life expectancy of blacks is consistently shorter than that for white-ethnic immigrants. Current life expectancy rates strongly indicate that the consistent pattern shown by Lieberson is not only consistent but is persistent over time. Lieberson explains this persistent pattern by saying, “if the European and black life table values represent differences in levels of living, then there is some reason to expect that the new Europeans might start off in a more favorable position that would blacks in the North even if there was no discrimination.”23 However, Lieberson looks beyond these “intrinsic differences” in order to determine “why more discrimination was directed at blacks as well as why other forces have maintained these gaps.”24“ A major reason for racial discrimination against black Americans may simply be, according to Lieberson, that “social events have a life of their own; once established, the customs persist long after causes vanish.”25

Once again, however, economics is the governing factor in the persistent discrimination against blacks, as Lieberson states, “the racial emphasis resulted from the use of the most obvious feature(s) of the group to support the intergroup conflict generated by a fear of blacks based on their threat as economic competitors.”26 Moreover, as Lieberson compares the economic success and well-being of SCEs and American blacks, Lieberson makes it clear that American blacks’ playing field was inherently different and inherently worse.27 When one’s life chances are dictated by the color of one’s skin, and when those life chances are greatly lessened by the color of one’s skin, social pathologies, as Wilson argues, arise. We must never forget, Lieberson makes clear, that African Americans started out, in America, as involuntary immigrants—as slaves, chattel, property—and this simple fact, coupled with the de jure discrimination of Jim Crow and Plessy, must be kept in mind when comparing the economic successes of blacks and whites in America.28

## “The Tangle of Pathology”

Almost contemporaneously with the Kerner Commission report (1968), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003; U. S. Senator from New York 1977-2001) wrote an article that generated a fire-storm of controversy. In that article, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965) and in subsequent literature with co-author Nathan Glazer (Beyond the Melting Pot) Moynihan argued that the family structure of the American Negro29 community was non-mainstream and led to pathological behavior, “the Negro community has been forced into a matriarchal structure which, because it is so out of line with the rest of the American society, seriously retards the progress of the group as a whole, and imposes a crushing burden on the Negro male . . . it is clearly a disadvantage for a minority group to be operating on one principle, while the great majority of the population, and the one with the most advantages is operating on another.”30

Moynihan further argues that this structure engenders and perpetuates pathological behavior such as male unemployment, poverty, out-of-wedlock births, single-mother-headed households, and inadequate education. As a precursor to Wilson, Moynihan discusses the effects of hyperghettoization, the illegitimacy rate, the IQ levels of fatherless, poor Negro children, and the great strides made by the Negro middle class. Moreover, he, along with Wilson and Reich states, “it might be estimated that as much as half of the Negro community falls into the middle class, however, the remaining half is in desperate and deteriorating circumstances.”31 In 1993, thirty years after Moynihan’s article, the illegitimacy rate of black women was a staggering 68.7%! In fact roughly two-thirds of black children are born outside of marriage, and a minority of black children currently reside in two-parent families.32, 33Moynihan also contends that joblessness, inadequate preparation for jobs, and lack of exposure to mainstream work ethics are mechanisms of a pathology that is almost exclusively relegated to poor, inner-city blacks who are more and more separated from white society.34

## The More Things Change . . .

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Southern Poverty Law Center has found a 75% increase in the number of hate-based groups and hate-based web sites in the past 5 years.

In 1903 W.E.B. DuBois wrote: “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” Given the social pathologies entrenched in the African American community, what can be done to solve their problems? Who is responsible for “fixing” the problems of black poverty, drug abuse, criminality, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, male abandonment, single-female heads-of-household, drop-out rates, and lower-than-average college admissions test scores?

Many conservative African Americans argue that white liberal guilt, welfare programs, and social engineering have removed the prize from the grasp of African Americans and have created a society in which freedom is no longer possible. Such conservative apologists include such well known and highly respected academics and social theorists as Stanley Crouch, Thomas Sowell, and Shelby Steele. African American conservatives have argued that it is the responsibility of all blacks to take responsibility for the problems and social pathologies that exist in the black community and to stop making excuses for black poverty, drug abuse, criminality, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, male abandonment, single-female heads-of-household, drop-out rates, and lower-than-average college admissions test scores. Most recently, in 2009, President Barack Obama called on African Americans to be more involved in the lives of their children and to take responsibility for their families.

W.E.B. DuBois made a similar argument 100 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X (later Malcolm al Haj Shabazz), made the same argument 40 years ago, and we are still enmeshed in the same argument today

Perhaps the problem of the 21st century is: Who is right? Who is responsible for African American progress in the 21st century. “Eyes on the Prize” of freedom was the theme of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. What is the prize now? How do we—all Americas—define “the prize” and “keep our eyes on the prize” in 21st century America?

## The Black National Anthem

The Black National Anthem (Listen to this song by the Tennessee State University Choir)

By James Weldon Johnson (1900)

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
* * * * *
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
* * * * *
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, Our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our GOD,
True to our native land.

## Footnotes

1. Wilson, William Julius. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1987. Pp 520-529.
2. Wilson, William Julius. The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1980.
3. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Genderin Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 520-529.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Oettinger, personal communication; 1997.
8. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 520-529.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid. Emphasis added.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Harrison, Roderick J. and Claudette E. Bennett. Racial and Ethnic Diversity.” In State of the Union: America in the 1990s, Volume Two: Social Trends. Reynolds Farley, Ed. New York: Russell Sage, 1995.
14. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Genderin Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press. 1994.
15. . Hyperghettoization is not a word that Wilson uses in either of the articles being reviewed here. The term however, is one that has come to be of some significance in sociological discussions of the inner-city. Basically the term means that “the exodus of black middle-class professionals from the inner-city has been increasingly accompanied by a movement of stable working-class blacks to higher-income neighborhoods in other parts of the city and to the suburbs . . .[leaving] today's ghetto residents [to] represent almost exclusively the most disadvantaged of the urban black community” thereby setting the scene for such pathologies as extremely high percentages of violent criminality, out-of-wedlock births, intractable joblessness, welfare dependency, and lack of job skills.
16. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 520-529.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 22-24.
20. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 541-553.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid. Emphasis added.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. . Even though, in today's culture, it is seen as a sign of ignorance, political incorrectness, or derogation to use the word “Negro” to refer to African Americans, since the word was used by Moynihan this writer uses it in the context of discussing his article.
30. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 555-559.
31. Ibid.
32. Hogan and Lichter, In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. P 103.
33. Births to Unmarried Women by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Age ofMother: 1990 to 2006.
34. In David B. Grusky, Ed. Social Stratification: Class, Race, & Gender in Sociological Perspective. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994. Pp 555-559.

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