Synopses & Reviews
On June 4, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson delivered what he and many others considered the greatest civil rights speech of his career. Proudly, Johnson hailed the new freedoms granted to African Americans due to the newly passed Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, but noted that freedom is not enough.” The next stage of the movement would be to secure racial equality as a fact and a result.”
The speech was drafted by an assistant secretary of labor by the name of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who had just a few months earlier drafted a scorching report on the deterioration of the urban black family in America. When that report was leaked to the press a month after Johnsons speech, it created a whirlwind of controversy from which Johnsons civil rights initiatives would never recover. But Moynihans arguments proved startlingly prescient, and established the terms of a debate about welfare policy that have endured for forty-five years.
The history of one of the great missed opportunities in American history, Freedom Is Not Enough will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand our nations ongoing failure to address the tragedy of the black underclass.
"Despite the author's caveat, 'this is not a biography,' it is the life story (and afterlife story) of a document commonly named 'The Moynihan Report' its conception as a memo, its delivery in 1965 as a report entitled 'The Negro Family: The Case for National Action' by Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan, and its independent, later development. Bancroft Prize-winning historian Patterson (Grand Expectations) reviews the report's perspectives on 'the woes of lower-class, inner-city black families' at the center of which are nonmarital births rooted variously in the historic past (slavery, migration to urban centers), contemporaneous economic forces (joblessness), or 'black culture.' Patterson's wide scouring through the scholarly literature and the popular media, from the mid-1960s to the Obama era, results in a generous survey of the sociological and historical treatment of 'lower-class black family life' and a reappraisal of whether the report scuttled LBJ's civil rights agenda. Alas, Patterson's thorough account is dulled by a plethora of repetitive statistics concerning out-of-wedlock births and a surfeit of reports concerning media handling; while it remains useful documentation, it is a tiresome read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University
“Freedom is Not Enough is a well written, insightful, and carefully documented social history of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan infamous report on black family life. Careful readers will appreciate James Patterson’s excellent and balanced discussion of the events surrounding this controversial report. Indeed, although other studies have focused on the Moynihan Report, none matches Patterson's creative synthesis and analysis of the complex racial, political, social, and cultural issues that influenced both the writing of the report and the public's reaction to it. Patterson's illuminating book is a must-read.”
John Dittmer, Professor Emeritus of History at Depauw University, and author of the Bancroft Prize winning Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
"Elegantly written, even-handed, and timely, Freedom is Not Enough is a tour de force. After exploring the controversy that has followed the Moynihan report down through the decades, Patterson concludes that Moynihan deserves far better than he has gotten. Not convinced? Then by all means read this book!"
E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out
“The debate unleashed by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan over the fate of the African-American family was one of the most difficult, important and misunderstood moments in our recent history. We should all be grateful that one of our greatest and most fluent historians has turned his shrewd attention to the episode. Freedom is Not Enough explains what the controversy was really about, unearths new evidence, and makes clear that this is a debate -- as President Obama has insisted -- still vital in our time. All who are committed to social justice and equality will profit from James Patterson’s riveting account.”
Nathan Glazer, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Harvard University
"James Patterson has written a full and absorbing history of the controversy that erupted over the Negro family and its connection to black poverty, in the wake of Daniel P. Moynihan's report of 1965. The issue was buried for decades, but inevitably re-emerged, shaped welfare reform in the 1990's, and is with us still 45 years after Moynihan's report."
“An astute, timely study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s important 1965 jeremiad…an excellent revisiting of a prescient report.”
“Patterson presents a history of this controversial, now vindicated, report, which for decades informed and roiled the debate over black poverty in the nation's cities.”
Wall Street Journal“A concise and judicious account of Mr. Moynihan’s political career, the report her made famous and the policy debates that the report inspired…Freedom Is Not Enough is written in an engaging style that makes these debates come alive again and that reminds us of their continuing importance.”
Booklist“A careful analysis of the report, highlighting Moynihan’s emphasis on the need for economic development in black communities with particular focus on black men and arguing for welfare assistance that did not disrupt family structures.”
“This is a humble history, written without exaggeration or irony, and largely without bias. Below its modest exterior, however, lies a doleful cautionary tale about the vanity of politics and the limits of government, a tale that comes at a particularly apt political moment.” Washington Post“[A] fine-grained study… Patterson’s key contribution is to show how the controversy that Moynihan triggered continued to warp public discussion of the concerns he raised long after the report itself had been filed away.” Journal of American History “Patterson offers a compact, well-researched, reliable, lively, and, above all, balanced account of a major social and political issue. Extremely well suited to teaching, this book, like his others, will be of value to both undergraduate and graduate students.”
A Bancroft Prizewinning historian narrates the birth, life, and afterlife of the explosive report that permanently altered the way we talk about race in America
A concise and judicious account of Mr. Moynihans political career, the report he made famous and the policy debates that the report inspired
Freedom Is Not Enough is written in an engaging style that makes these debates come alive again and that reminds us of their continuing importance.”Wall Street Journal
In Freedom is Not Enough, award-winning historian James Patterson narrates the birth, life, and afterlife of the explosive Moynihan report, which altered the way we view race in America. In 1965, President Johnson was leading an optimistic nation toward progress, especially in regard to the civil rights movement, which had just achieved the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. But this momentum was quickly lost, in part due to the negative reception of Daniel Patrick Moynihans Report on Black Family Life. Moynihan marshaled a formidable array of alarming statistics to paint a grim portrait of inner-city black family life, and argued that immediate national action was imperative if America hoped to prevent lower-class black families from crumbling. So pivotal was the Moynihan report that the past half-century of race relations cannot be fully comprehended without considering its role in predictingyet falling short of avertingdecades of failure. Freedom Is Not Enough provides invaluable new insight into this crucial moment in American history, showing how the Moynihan report represents one of the great missed opportunities in 20th century American history.
About the Author
James T. Patterson is Ford Foundation Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. He is the author of Restless Giant, Brown V. Board of Education, and the Bancroft prize-winning Grand Expectations: The United States 1945-1974. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.