"The essays in this exciting collection bring to life the War on Poverty at the grassroots, where it was really fought. They emphasize the interpenetration of the poverty war and civil rights movement and highlight the energy unleashed by the commitment to the 'maximum feasible participation' of the poor. Annelise Orleck’s introduction provides one of the best overviews of the War on Poverty ever written, and her stunning conclusion offers a measured, reasoned defense of the program’s achievements and legacy—a message needed now more than ever."
—Michael B. Katz, University of Pennsylvania
"Contributors to the volume chronicle vibrant and largely unknown histories while not shying away from the flaws and failings of the movement. . . .This book helps readers to understand the turbulent era out of which it emerged and why it remains so controversial to this day."
"The works within this edited volume add to our knowledge of the War on Poverty, including both its range of achievements and its contested legacy."
—Karen M. Hawkins, Journal of Children and Poverty
"The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980 offers a powerful collection key to any social issues collection and covers poverty and civil rights battles at the grassroots level. . . .provides a powerful survey of the movement Johnson began. Very highly recommended!"
—Midwest Book Review
"[A]s these essays collectively argue that the War on Poverty was more successful than historians—and certainly most Americans—have commonly recognized, [The War on Poverty] makes a valuable and insightful contribution."
—Sean P. Cunningham, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
[The War on Poverty] is history, not economic or political theory, and its power comes from its empirical approach . . . The stories contained in this volume of how [the war on poverty's] battles have been lost and won can help us see how it might be fought more successfully in the future."
—Duncan Richter, Studies in American Culture
“There is little to criticize about this collection as a whole. The most we can suggest is that other historians read this work, take its questions and methods to heart, and get to work producing the next round of scholarship on the War on Poverty. Coming at a time when poverty encroaches upon even greater swaths of our society and the political will to combat it seems to have dwindled to null, such research should be in high demand, making this collection essential reading for any scholar of twentieth-century U.S. history.”
—Jonathan Free, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty has long been portrayed as the most potent symbol of all that is wrong with big government. Conservatives deride the War on Poverty for corruption and the creation of “poverty pimps,” and even liberals carefully distance themselves from it. Examining the long War on Poverty from the 1960s onward, this book makes a controversial argument that the programs were in many ways a success, reducing poverty rates and weaving a social safety net that has proven as enduring as programs that came out of the New Deal.
The War on Poverty also transformed American politics from the grass roots up, mobilizing poor people across the nation. Blacks in crumbling cities, rural whites in Appalachia, Cherokees in Oklahoma, Puerto Ricans in the Bronx, migrant Mexican farmworkers, and Chinese immigrants from New York to California built social programs based on Johnson’s vision of a greater, more just society. Contributors to this volume chronicle these vibrant and largely unknown histories while not shying away from the flaws and failings of the movement—including inadequate funding, co-optation by local political elites, and blindness to the reality that mothers and their children made up most of the poor.
In the twenty-first century, when one in seven Americans receives food stamps and community health centers are the largest primary care system in the nation, the War on Poverty is as relevant as ever. This book helps us to understand the turbulent era out of which it emerged and why it remains so controversial to this day.
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