The National Urban League, breaking a 10-year string of gloomy reports on the "The State of Black America," yesterday said that blacks are riding a wave of fresh "hope and encouragement" despite a "deplorable" Reagan administration record on civil rights that would divide the United States into a "prosperous majority and an impoverished minority."
After noting that President Reagan was reelected in a landslide despite 9-to-1 black opposition, and that black unemployment continues at about 16 percent in the face of an economic recovery, John E. Jacob, the president of the Urban League, said he wanted to "stress the hopeful side of the picture."
Evidence of hope for blacks included the elevation of Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), who is black, to head the House Budget Committee; Jesse L. Jackson's respectable run for president; a "revival of the interracial, nonpartisan movement for racial justice," as evidenced by black and white cooperation to aid victims of famine in Ethiopia and to end apartheid in South Africa; and a halt in the precipitous decline of black households headed by married couples.
Black Americans are also taking new responsibility for educational and crime problems affecting them, depending less on the government, the report said.
The decision to take an optimistic approach in this year's report, which credits Reagan with reviving the "American spirit," is not meant to mimic Reagan, said Washington Urban League President Betti S. Whaley, but to cheer blacks who are glum about Reagan's attitudes.
Jacob called on Reagan to "take a handful of small steps that could begin to heal the breach . . . ."
Among the steps he suggested were having the president support the civil rights bill; meet with black groups; reappraise U.S. policy toward South Africa; and end the "shameful pattern of exclusion of blacks from key positions." He also urged that the president support his own initiatives to help the poor, such as encouraging enterprise zones and ending taxes on incomes below the poverty level.
"On balance," Jacob said in the overview to the report, "we would suggest that the strongest message coming out of black America in 1984 was that it became increasingly aware of its own strengths and increasingly willing to act independently to achieve what it considers its own best interests."
Among the reasons for optimism in the black community, the report notes, were:
* Fifty-three percent of black families "remain intact, married couples." The report said that although the number of black families headed by married couples has declined in the last two decades -- from 68 percent in 1960 to 53 percent -- the decline "evident between 1960 and 1975 has slowed in the years since 1980."
* There is a "new spirit of concern within the black community" that extends beyond protests to helping to strengthen black families and improve schools. The report said those are among a "host of issues that cannot be solved by government action alone . . . it suggests that black Americans recognize that we cannot place all our hopes on government; some of our problems only we can deal with."
* The most encouraging event in 1984 for blacks was Jackson's candidacy and "the flurry of political involvement it helped to spark at the local level, particularly among young black voters."
* An equally significant political event for blacks was the election of Gray to head the budget panel. "For the first time a black political leader will be at the center of the negotiations over the budget."
* There are signs of a "revival of the interracial, nonpartisan movement for racial justice." The report cited the pastoral letter issued by Roman Catholic bishops calling for a "new commitment to social justice." The report also noted the antiapartheid demonstrations against South Africa that havee "brought religious and lay leaders together with civil rights ganizations and conservative congressmen. In 1985, we look for those groups and individuals to become as indignant about our own racial barriers . . . . "