President Reagan Used Her Story To Attack Welfare Protections

gavel in front of a sign that says welfare law
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
December 22, 2021

In 1926, Linda Taylor was born into an “all-white” family: her father was Black, but strict race-mixing laws made them lie about her race. When the truth came out, she was shunned and later expelled from her school at only six – and never received further education. 

After giving birth at only fourteen, she couldn’t find work. Desperate, she got creative…

Using multiple names, she applied for and received more welfare benefits than what was allowed.

Eventually, she was caught and convicted – and one politician was determined to make an example out of her.

In 1974, a newspaper called Taylor a “welfare queen,” giving Ronald Reagan the example he needed to wage a crusade against welfare. Reagan milked Taylor’s story, claiming she’d stolen millions! In reality, it was about $9,000 in total. 

But Reagan ruthlessly used her story to tighten welfare eligibility, reduce benefits, and forever stereotype Black women seeking government aid.

Black women are still called lazy, entitled “welfare queens” who abuse government benefits to afford extravagant lifestyles on taxpayers’ dollars. 

The truth is far different – far more white people receive welfare than Black, and welfare benefits rarely provide enough for most families to survive.

Systemic racism forced Taylor to forge an unconventional path. But the stereotype based on her still affects us – and we have to be honest if we’ll ever get ahead.

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