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Some historians question the widely held belief that continually improving education led to gradual African American empowerment in the southern United States from the late nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. They note that the development of Black educational institutions in the segregated South was never rapid or steady: disparities between Black and White schools sometimes grew in the early decades of the twentieth century. And African Americans' educational gains did not bring commensurate economic gains. Starting in the 1940s, even as Black and White schools in the South moved steadily toward equality, Black southerners remained politically marginalized and experienced systematic job discrimination. Although Black schools had achieved near parity with White schools in per capita spending and teachers' salaries by 1965, African Americans' income still lagged behind that of Whites. Nonetheless, educational progress did contribute toward economic and political empowerment. African Americans' campaigns to support Black schools fostered a sense of community, nurtured political determination, and often increased literacy. More significantly, politically outspoken Black newspapers achieved record circulation during the 1940s, just as the literacy rate among African Americans approached 90 percent. Finally, the leadership of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was composed largely of graduates of Black colleges.