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FREEDOM IS NOT ENOUGH by James T. Patterson


The Moynihan Report and America's Struggle over Black Family Life--from LBJ to Obama

by James T. Patterson

Pub Date: May 4th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-465-01357-9
Publisher: Basic

An astute, timely study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s important 1965 jeremiad.

Written when Moynihan was serving as assistant secretary of labor in Lyndon Johnson’s administration, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action decried the ills that beset black urban America, including the legacy of slavery, discrimination, cycle of poverty, unemployment, out-of-wedlock children and absent fathers. At the time, Johnson was riding high on his Great Society agenda, touting the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and galvanizing the country in the War on Poverty. Although Johnson incorporated many of Moynihan’s ideas into an important speech at Howard University’s commencement on June 4, the eruption of violence in the Watts ghetto and widespread criticism of Moynihan’s outspoken report soon eclipsed its prophetic message that a “unity of purpose” in federal programs was needed to arrest the crumbling structure of the black family, which would only “feed on itself” in the future. The report aroused the ire of critics and militant civil-rights leaders, who accused Moynihan of victimizing blacks and advocating preferential treatment—a “conversational Gulag.” As a result, for years he was relegated to the status of neo-conservative. Bancroft Prize–winning historian Patterson (Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore, 2005, etc.) traces Moynihan’s career through successive administrations, from Nixon to Clinton, and his tireless work for welfare reform. “The moment lost” to address the dysfunctional black family was only regained with the publication of William Julius Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged (1987) and other books. The final chapter, “From Cosby to Obama,” addresses current troubling trends and public-policy strategies that work.

An excellent revisiting of a prescient report.