THE AMERICAN SERFS: A Report on Poverty in the Rural South by Paul Good

THE AMERICAN SERFS: A Report on Poverty in the Rural South

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Paul Good went down there and he talked to a lot of poor people and a few poverty administrators and he wrote what he saw and he stuck in some damning statistics and a lot of soulful quotes: ""Not for you to have nothin', that's what they really want."" The result, an old-style journalism that is very different from Good's writing in The Nation, somehow works. In a sense, it is a Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. sans photographer, updated to show the new generation of the rural poor--the tenant farmers and welfare recipients who have welcomed SNCC and the often malingering OEO, participated in training and food programs and in voter registration, but who remain destitute. This ""sorry story"" is told through profiles of poor people, mostly black, who live throughout the South. The whites who run the system (among them some officials of the anti-poverty agencies) rarely appear here except in cruel letters sent to tenants or in reports of harsh treatment received at their hands. Nonetheless, they are charged with huge crimes: the Department of Agriculture has had a ""poverty-creating role,"" the federal agencies are purposely ""fragmented"" to limit their effectiveness, the white people of the South have perpetuated ""serfdom."" It's a slanted book with a haphazard methodology, but useful: it could make even a hyper-complacent exurbanite care.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1968
Publisher: Putnam