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Many Black veterans were denied G.I. Bill benefits after World War II. Some lawmakers want to correct the historical error.

Proposed new GI bill targets racial inequities
Proposed new GI bill targets racial inequities 02:28

The G.I. Bill is largely credited with helping build America's middle class after World War II — but that economic opportunity was wrongly denied to many Black veterans. Now, some members of Congress want to correct the historical error.

Vanessa Brooks' father Lawrence served in the Pacific during World War II.

"We built bridges, roads and airstrips for planes to land," Lawrence said.

At 112, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran and one of more than a million African Americans who served in the war and supposedly qualified for the housing and education benefits of the G.I. Bill.

"Thousands and thousands of Black veterans were denied their general benefits," Dartmouth historian Matthew Delmont said.

"Veterans had to go to their local veterans' administration offices. These were staffed almost exclusively by White officials and this is a particular problem in the South," Delmont said.

"They were denied access to mortgages," Delmont continued. "They're denied college tuition to be able to go to college and earn degrees that could help them get good jobs afterwards."

They were also denied a chance to participate in the post-war economic boom, which saw White wealth surge and Black wealth barely keep up with inflation.

"For White veterans, the G.I. Bill helped them become members of the middle class," Delmont said. "For many Black veterans, the exact opposite was true because they couldn't buy homes, they couldn't go to college. They lost that opportunity to join the middle class."

"My generation may not be responsible for this injustice, but we can take responsibility for fixing it," said Congressman Seth Moulton, a former marine who went to Harvard on today's G.I. Bill. He is one of the authors of a bill that would try to make up for all that lost opportunity.

"Direct descendants of these Black World War II veterans would be eligible for VA housing loans and their grandkids would be eligible for education benefits," Moulton said.

Vanessa believes that bill is the reason her father is still alive.

"It's too late for him, but he wants me to go to school and I want to go to Tulane, but it's just a dream," Vanessa said. "If the G.I. Bill is revived, I'll have the opportunity to go back to school on my daddy's shoulders."

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