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This new edition of Patterson's widely used book carries the story of battles over poverty and social welfare through what the author calls the "amazing 1990s," those years of extraordinary performance of the economy. He explores a range of issues arising from the economic phenomenon--increasing inequality and demands for use of an improved poverty definition. He focuses the story on the impact of the highly controversial welfare reform of 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President Clinton, despite the laments of anguished liberals.
"Throughout this terrific book, Wilson places this government agency-its creation, its lifespan and achievements, and its mixed legacies-in the broader context of postwar American history and, more specifically, the history of employment policy." --Jason Scott Smith, author of Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956 With clarity and insight, Gregory S. Wilson recounts the story of the Area Redevelopment Administration and connects a nearly forgotten piece of American employment history to national and transnational developments in the making of social policy in the years between the New Deal and the Great Society. Communities Left Behind demonstrates how the United States has, since the Great Depression, tried but failed to address the nation's structural inequalities, and it reopens discussions about poverty and economic dislocation in a period when the country is facing new economic challenges. The ARA was created in 1961 and remained in operation until 1965. Its goal was to assist communities, especially economically distressed ones in rural or undeveloped areas of the country, in generating employment opportunities. Unstated in the creation of the ARA was its intention to serve as an economic development project mostly for Appalachia and the American South, where nearly all of its money was spent. Wilson argues that the ARA was doomed to fail from the beginning because of the requirement that federal officials not interfere with state and local priorities. It simply was not possible to implement a federal initiative in the South without running afoul of local interests. And, to further complicate matters, the issue of race loomed in the background: when ARA policies aimed to improve employment opportunities for black southerners, they were invariably sabotaged by racist politics. This ambivalent legacy of the ARA is alive today, Wilson suggests, as areas of the nation that have struggled economically since the agency's original creation-including inner cities, Native American reservations, Appalachia, and the rural South-continue to founder. Gregory S. Wilson is associate professor of history at the University of Akron and coeditor of the Northeast Ohio Journal of History.
In a provocative assessment of American poverty and policy from 1950 to the present, Frank Strieker examines an era that has seen serious discussion about the causes of poverty and unemployment. Analyzing the War on Poverty, theories of the culture of poverty and the underclass, the effects of Reaganomics, and the 1996 welfare reform, Strieker dem-onstrates that most antipoverty approaches are futile without the presence (or creation) of good jobs. Strieker notes that since the 1970s, U.S. poverty levels have remained at or above 11 %, despite training programs and periods of economic growth. The creation of jobs has continued to lag behind the need for them. Strieker argues that a serious public debate is needed about the job situation; social programs must be redesigned, a national health care program must be developed, and eco-nomic inequality must be addressed. He urges all sides to be honest - if we don't want to eliminate poverty, then we should say so. But if we do want to reduce poverty significantly, he says, we must expand decent jobs and government income programs, redirecting national resources away from the rich and toward those with low incomes. Why America Lost the War on Poverty - And How to Win It is sure to prompt much-needed debate on how to move forward. Frank Stricker is professor of history at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. In a major reinterpretation of civil rights and Chicano movement history, Gordon K. Mantler demonstrates how King's unfinished crusade became the era's most high-profile attempt at multiracial collaboration and sheds light on the interdependent relationship between racial identity and political coalition among African Americans and Mexican Americans. Mantler argues that while the fight against poverty held great potential for black-brown cooperation, such efforts also exposed the complex dynamics between the nation's two largest minority groups. Drawing on oral histories, archives, periodicals, and FBI surveillance files, Mantler paints a rich portrait of the campaign and the larger antipoverty work from which it emerged, including the labor activism of Cesar Chavez, opposition of Black and Chicano Power to state violence in Chicago and Denver, and advocacy for Mexican American land-grant rights in New Mexico. Ultimately, Mantler challenges readers to rethink the multiracial history of the long civil rights movement and the difficulty of sustaining political coalitions.
2004 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to end segregation in public schools. Many people were elated when Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in May 1954, the ruling that struck down state-sponsored racial segregation in America's public schools. Thurgood Marshall, chief attorney for the black families that launched the litigation, exclaimed later, "I was so happy, I was numb." The novelist Ralph Ellison wrote, "another battle of the Civil War has been won. The rest is up to us and I'm very glad. What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children!" Here, in a concise, moving narrative, Bancroft Prize-winning historian James T. Patterson takes readers through the dramatic case and its fifty-year aftermath. A wide range of characters animates the story, from the little-known African Americans who dared to challenge Jim Crow with lawsuits (at great personal cost); to Thurgood Marshall, who later became a Justice himself; to Earl Warren, who shepherded a fractured Court to a unanimous decision. Others include segregationist politicians like Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas; Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, and Nixon; and controversial Supreme Court justices such as William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas. Most Americans still see Brown as a triumph--but was it? Patterson shrewdly explores the provocative questions that still swirl around the case. Could the Court--or President Eisenhower--have done more to ensure compliance with Brown? Did the decision touch off the modern civil rights movement? How useful are court-ordered busing and affirmative action against racial segregation? To what extent has racial mixing affected the academic achievement of black children? Where indeed do we go from here to realize the expectations of Marshall, Ellison, and others in 1954?
Americans love to hate their government, and a long tradition of anti-government suspicion reaches back to debates among the founders of the nation. But the election of Barack Obama has created a backlash rivaled only by the anti-government hysteria that preceded the Civil War. Lost in all the Tea Party rage and rhetoric is this simple fact: the federal government plays a central role in making our society function, and it always has. Edited by Steven Conn and written by some of America's leading scholars, the essays in To Promote the General Welfare explore the many ways government programs have improved the quality of life in America. The essays cover everything from education, communication, and transportation to arts and culture, housing, finance, and public health. They explore how and why government programs originated, how they have worked and changed--and been challenged--since their inception, and why many of them are important to preserve. The book shows how the WPA provided vital, in some cases career-saving, assistance to artists and writers like Jackson Pollock, Dorothea Lange, Richard Wright, John Cheever, and scores of others; how millions of students from diverse backgrounds have benefited and continue to benefit from the G.I. Bill, Fulbright scholarships, and federally insured student loans; and how the federal government created an Interstate highway system unparalleled in the world, linking the entire nation. These are just a few examples of highly successful programs the book celebrates--and that anti-government critics typically ignore. For anyone wishing to explore the flip side of today's vehement attacks on American government, To Promote the General Welfare is the best place to start.

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