Franklin's essay traces the practices, policies, and laws that, from colonial times through the mid-1960s moment when he composed his essay, created and sustained the two worlds of race in America. He outlines the history of efforts from that period to alleviate racial distinctions and to foster a “world of equality and complete human fellowship.” Franklin cautions, however, that even certain well-intentioned efforts to extend services, opportunities, and rights to African Americans sometimes reinforced segregation and discrimination. He considers how key historical, legal, political, and social developments from the twentieth century - World War II, the growth of labor unions, the Great Migration, America's ascendancy as a world power, among others - advanced racial equality in America while often intensifying the backlash from opponents to such equality. Still, Franklin concludes optimistically that however strident those opponents may be, they “have been significantly weakened by the very force of the numbers and elements now seeking to eliminate the two worlds of race.”

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