The History of Race in U.S. Government

Eric Yellin

History professor Eric Yellin's first book, Racism in the Nation’s Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson's America. examines federal employment as a lever and obstacle for racial equality and social mobility in the age of progressive politics. Spanning the period from Reconstruction to the 1920s, Racism in the Nation's Service reveals how the post-Civil War Republican patronage machine supported a growing Black middle class in Washington, D.C., and how, in turn, racial discrimination in federal offices during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson implicated the United States government in the economic limitation of African Americans.

"The federal government was one of the few employers in the whole country that gave African Americans a shot; in particular a shot at career and social mobility,” Yellin says.

"In Washington D.C., where most of these federal jobs were based, this led to increases in homeownership among Black families. After Wilson’s presidency, Black homeownership fell in D.C., in part because Black federal employees no longer had access to those better jobs and salaries."

Currently, Yellin is a part of a new project to develop the new Capital Jewish Museum in Washington D.C.

"To me, the development of this museum is an opportunity to build, from the ground up, a historical institution that tries to meet the challenge of the moment: to tell history that is honest and inclusive," says Yellin.  

Contact director of media and public relations Sunni Brown at to connect with Yellin.