Tag Archive for 'poverty'

From the Civil Rights Project: Increased School Segregation and How to Combat It

The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently released three reports analyzing segregation trends in public schools.

The first report (“E Pluribus … Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students”), while acknowledging a rapid increase in minority enrollment, also shows a serious increase in segregation for Latino students, particularly in the west, as well as an increase in school segregation for African American students.

The second and third reports focus on the South and the West—areas which, although quite diverse, also show high levels of racial and economic segregation.

Addressing such issues as poverty and racial isolation, the reports suggest several ways to reverse resegregation trends and increase educational equality. To learn more, and to read the reports, check out the project’s website.

To learn more about racial and economic school resegregation, check out John Boger and Gary Orfield’s edited volume School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? (UNC Press 2005).

In 2009, the UNC School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights brought together hundreds of educators, civil rights advocates, scholars, and government officials to discuss efforts for integrated education. To learn more and to watch a video of the presentations, check out this page from the Center for Civil Rights.

On This Day: The Economic Opportunity Act

On August 20, 1964—48 years ago today—President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act, devoting nearly $1 billion to programs aimed at helping the poor.

President John F. Kennedy had proposed many social and economic reforms in the early 1960s; after his assassination, President Johnson continued this work, seeking civil rights reforms and, most famously, waging a war on poverty.

By January 1964, President Johnson had tasked Special Assistant Sargent Shriver with developing a bill to combat poverty. In March, the bill was presented to Congress; only a few months later, on August 8, the bill was passed in Congress. On August 20, President Johnson signed it into law.

Establishing community action programs to address education, job training, loans, and more, the Act also created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to review the operation of these programs.

President Johnson spoke in the Rose Garden while signing the bill. His speech read, in part:

For so long as man has lived on this earth poverty has been his curse.

On every continent in every age men have sought escape from poverty’s oppression.

Today for the first time in all the history of the human race, a great nation is able to make and is willing to make a commitment to eradicate poverty among its people


For the million young men and women who are out of school and who are out of work, this program will permit us to take them off the streets, put them into work training programs, to prepare them for productive lives, not wasted lives.

The legislation was controversial from the beginning and remains so today. The Office of Economic Opportunity was eventually disbanded, and many of the programs were modified, but certain programs (such as Job Corps and Head Start) operate today under the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.

To view a digitized copy of the act, check out this page from the National Archives.

To read President Johnson’s speech from the signing, click here.

To learn more about President Kennedy and President Johnson’s fight for economic opportunity, check out this page from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more on the war on poverty, check out Michael Gillette’s Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral History (Oxford University Press 2010), and Annelise Orleck and Lisa Hazirjian’s The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980 (University of Georgia Press 2011).

To learn about the connections between race relations and the war on poverty, check out Jill Quadagno’s The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty (Oxford University Press 1996) and David Greenstone and Paul Peterson’s Race and Authority in Urban Politics: Community Relations and the War on Poverty (University of Chicago Press 1973).

To learn more about President Johnson, check out Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (Knopf 2012).

To learn about President Johnson’s relationship with the civil rights movement, check out David Carter’s The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 (UNC Press 2009).

On This Day: The Watts Riot Begins

On August 11, 1965—47 years ago today—Los Angeles dissolved into what is perhaps the most famous display of racial hatred and violence in America’s history.

Only 13 months earlier, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had greatly expanded the rights and protections of all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Tensions remained high, though, as segregationists sought ways around this law (and other similar legislation). In California, Proposition 14 nullified the state’s 1963 fair housing law, amending the state constitution to allow individuals to decline to sell, lease, or rent property pursuant to their preferences.

On August 11, a police officer arrested Marquette Frye for drunk driving. While the officer was questioning him, Frye’s brother Ronald (who had been in the car at the time) led his mother to the scene. Alarmed by her son’s forcible arrest, Mrs. Rena Frye put up a fight, tearing one officer’s shirt. Both the mother and the two sons were arrested—and police hit them with their batons.

A growing (and angry) crowd of hundreds of onlookers dissolved into violence after the police officers left, stoning cars, beating people, and looting stores.

The National Guard was called in and a curfew was ordered, but the chaos lasted several days, finally ending on August 17—for the most part. (The next night, police entered a Nation of Islam mosque and fired extensively into the building, causing many injuries.)

By the time the violence was quelled, at least 34 people lay dead, 1000 had been wounded, and more than 600 buildings had been damaged or destroyed through looting and arson.

When peace was finally restored, California Governor Pat Brown created a commission to study the riots; the McCone Commission’s report ultimately stated that the riots had been caused by deep and engrained social problems: poverty, inequality, racial discrimination, and the passage of Proposition 14.

Despite this report, little was done to remedy the poor conditions under which Los Angeles’ African American residents lived. The riot lives on today in American history as a horrifying reminder of the violence such treatment can lead to. It was neither the first nor the last race riot in Los Angeles—a fact which illustrates all too well that the path to equality and justice is long.

To learn more, and to view news footage, check out this page from PBS. The Civil Rights Digital Library includes a synopsis and archival material.

To read the summary from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, click here.

For a comprehensive study of the riot and its aftermath, check out Gerald Horne’s Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s (Da Capo Press, 1997).

To view the August 12, 1965, article in the New York Times, click here.

The August 27, 1965 edition of LIFE Magazine focused heavily on the Watts Riots.

To read the McCone Commission’s report, click here.

In this 2005 Los Angeles Times article, reporters Valerie Reitman and Mitchell Landsberg interview nine survivors.

To learn more about urban race riots, check out Janet Abu-Lughod’s Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2012). Readers will also be interested in John Charles Boger and Judith Welch Wegner’s edited collection, Race, Poverty, and American Cities (UNC Press 1996).

This was not the first time Los Angeles had faced rioting, nor would it be the last. The 1943 zoot suit riots involved violence by white sailors and Marines against Latino youths. And in 1992, 58 individuals were killed after the controversial beating of Rodney King sparked a week-long riot.

To learn more about the 1943 riot, check out Eduardo Obregon Pagan’s Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A. (UNC Press, 2003). Rodney King, in conjunction with Lawrence Spagnola, recently published a memoir about the 1992 riot: The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.

On This Day: The Detroit Riot of 1967

On July 23, 1967—45 years ago today—Detroit, Michigan, erupted into bloody violence. The Detroit Riot of 1967, one of the most violent race riots in American history, would continue for five days and would ultimately leave more than 40 individuals dead.

Racial tensions were already high in Detroit; although white residents had benefited from expanded economic opportunities and increased quality of life, conditions for African Americans remained poor, and police abuse was common. Detroit was no stranger to racial violence; 24 years earlier another riot had left 34 individuals dead.

On the night of July 23, police officers raided a drinking club where a large group of African Americans were celebrating the homecoming of two Vietnam veterans. After police arrested 82 people, a small group of onlookers who had been kicked out of the club broke the windows of a nearby clothing store. Looting and fires quickly spread across the city; within 48 hours the National Guard had been mobilized, and soon after, U.S. Army troops joined them.

It took five days and 17,000 law enforcement officers and federal troops to quell the violence. Ultimately, more than 40 people, mostly African Americans, died during the riot—many at the hands of police and National Guardsmen. Hundreds more were injured, and property damage was valued at $50 million.

The Detroit Riot was characterized by the same shocking and indiscriminate violence as the Newark Riot, which had ended less than a week before the Detroit Riot began. As in Newark, most of those killed were shot by police and National Guardsmen. And, also as in Newark, residents were killed in their own homes—a four-year-old girl was killed by National Guard gunfire when her father lit a cigarette near the window and a 23-year-old man was shot while sitting in his own yard.

As the violence was settling down in Detroit, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the 11-member Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of that summer’s riots and provide recommendations for the future. Seven months later, the Commission released its report, stating that the riots resulted from frustration over the lack of economic opportunity. Citing governmental failure to provide housing, education, and social services, the Commission became known for its warning that “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

To learn more, and to view video footage, photographs, and newspaper excerpts, check out this page from PBS. Rutgers University also provides a thorough summary, as well as biographies of the victims and videotaped interviews with witnesses.

Sidney Fine’s Violence in the Model City: The Cavanagh Administration, Race Relations, and the Detroit Riot of 1967 (Michigan State University Press) provides a detailed study of this event.

Toward the end of the riot, three teenage men (ages 17, 18, and 19) were killed by police in a hotel. To learn more, check out John Hersey’s The Algiers Motel Incident (Johns Hopkins University Press).

To learn more about race relations in Detroit, check out Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton University Press).

For a study of urban poverty from the 1960s onwards, check out John Boger and Judith Wegner’s edited volume Race, Poverty, and American Cities (UNC Press, 1996).

On This Day: The Poor People’s Campaign

On May 12, 1968—44 years ago today, protesters began a movement that would soon involve thousands of Americans of all races and backgrounds in a multi-week protest and march against economic inequality and poverty.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders, had been preparing for the Poor People’s Campaign for several months. After King was assassinated on April 4th, his widow, Coretta Scott King, and a group of black ministers (including Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson), decided to move forward with the plans.

Originally conceived of by Marian Wright Edelman of the NAACP, the campaign sought help from Congress and governmental agencies: jobs for the unemployed, health care, education, and a fair minimum wage.

For six weeks—until their land use permit expired on June 24—protesters camped out in tents and shacks on the National Mall, in an area they named Resurrection City.

Ultimately, as many as 50,000 people participated in the campaign. At the time, many thought the concessions the protesters secured were insufficient. However, the campaign was highly visible and increased consciousness of poverty across the nation—and it foreshadowed protests to come in the ensuing decades, including the current Occupy Movement.

For more information, check out this story from NPR.

To learn more, and to view a video and several news articles, click here.

To view a flyer announcing the movement, click here.

Gerald McKnight’s The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign (Basic Books, 1998) examines the demonstration and responses to it.

Thirty-six years before the Poor People’s Campaign, another group of protesters set up encampments in Washington, D.C. During the Great Depression, World War I veterans—left hungry and homeless after the government announced they would not receive their service compensation until 1945—launched a large-scale protest. The Bonus Army arrived in D.C. on May 25, 1932, and quickly drew thousands of veterans. To learn more, click here.

Marci Campbell on Health and Poverty

From the Center for the Study of the American South: Marci Campbell, a member of the Society for Behavioral Medicine and a program leader for prevention and control at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, speaks about her work in eastern NC with recognizing and intervening creatively to address root causes of poor health.

Marci Campbell – Health and Wealth: Addressing Root Causes of Poor Health in Eastern NC Through Assets Development from CSAS on Vimeo.

Event: The Battle against Poverty

On August 31, if you’re near UNC campus, check out the remarkable exhibit The Poor Among Us: Photography of Poverty in North Carolina and join a program (here’s the flier in PDF) led by James Leloudis and Robert Korstad, authors of the new history of the North Carolina Fund, To Right These Wrongs.

The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality

From the Kenan Institute for Ethics, word on a new project tied to To Right These Wrongs, the new book from Bob Korstad and Jim Leloudis about the pioneering anti-poverty organization the North Carolina Fund:

During the winter of 2010, more than 10,000 homes in North Carolina had no heat and almost twice that number had no indoor plumbing. Fifty thousand families in our state went without food at some point during the past year. Eleven percent of North Carolinians were unemployed in 2009, compared to 7 percent in 2008 and 4.2 percent in 2000. More than 1.5 million people have no health insurance, meaning that a single accident or serious illness could leave them with insurmountable debt.

Clearly, these jaw-dropping statistics require serious policy and political solutions. But the issues they raise are not only for policymakers and politicians to debate in conference rooms and legislative halls. They constitute a moral challenge to all of us who live in North Carolina. We must confront them and ask ourselves what they say about who we are—as individuals, as citizens, and as members of our local communities.

The Institute is sponsoring a project on The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality in collaboration with the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The overarching goals of this project are to raise awareness and a sense of urgency among the public about the ongoing prevalence of poverty and inequality in North Carolina; to analyze competing ethical principles and their resulting policy prescriptions; and to educate future leaders about the human and economic costs of poverty and the moral challenge it poses in a democracy.

In the first year of this three-year project, we will pursue these objectives on two fronts:

Poverty in North Carolina

At a recent Duke University panel held in honor of the publication of To Right These Wrongs:  The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America (the featured title in our LCRM online publishing pilot), an impressive report from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation on poverty in North Carolina was presented.

The report contains a clearly stated, important analysis of poverty in North Carolina today.  It includes data on African American and Hispanic populations.  It discusses income, educational, and housing disparities; displacement and hardship caused by the recent economic crisis; and the surprising persistence of extreme poverty in both urban and rural communities.

New Book: President of the Other America

Edward M. Schmitt’s new book on Robert Kennedy and the politics of poverty is out from UMass Press (h/t Mary Dudziak, via Ralph Luker). It’s not strictly LCRM-themed, but should provide important context for anyone interested in the anti-poverty activism of the 1960s and beyond. From the press:

According to Schmitt, Kennedy’s approach to the problem, although fueled by moral outrage, was primarily political. First as attorney general and later as senator from New York, he reached out not only to those on the margins of American society, but also to business leaders and political elites who recognized the threat poverty posed to the nation’s long-term stability. Guided by a communitarian vision of government, he believed that a coalition of the powerful and the powerless could strengthen local communities and link them into a new form of American federalism. Even though that vision was never realized, President of the Other America provides a revealing glimpse of the kind of president Robert Kennedy might have been.