Synopses & Reviews
Head Start, Job Corps, Foster Grandparents, College Work-Study, VISTA, Community Action, and the Legal Services Corporation are familiar programs, but their tumultuous beginning has been largely forgotten. Conceived amid the daring idealism of the 1960s, these programs originated as weapons in Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, an offensive spearheaded by a controversial new government agency. Within months, the Office of Economic Opportunity created an array of unconventional initiatives that empowered the poor, challenged the established order, and ultimately transformed the nation's attitudes toward poverty.
In Launching the War on Poverty, historian Michael L. Gillette weaves together oral history interviews with the architects of the Great Society's boldest experiment. Forty-nine former poverty warriors, including Sargent Shriver, Adam Yarmolinsky, and Lawrence F. O'Brien, recount this inside story of unprecedented governmental innovation. The interviews capture the excitement and heady optimism of Americans in the 1960s along with their conflicts and disillusionment.
This new edition of Launching the War on Poverty adds the voice of Lyndon Johnson to the story with excerpts from his recently-released White House telephone conversations. In these colorful and brutally candid conversations, LBJ exercises his full arsenal of presidential powers, political leverage, and legendary persuasiveness to win one of his most difficult legislative battles. The second edition also documents how the OEO's offspring survived their volatile origins to become broadly supported features of domestic policy.
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was one of the great legislative triumphs of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. In Launching the War on Poverty, forty-nine veterans of this unprecedented legislative effort tell their stories, offering a fascinating inside look at how Community Action, Head Start, the Job Corps, Legal Services, and other efforts went from brainstorming sessions in Washington to real-life programs in low-income neighborhoods throughout the nation. As the interviews reveal the idealism of the 1960s, they also capture the excitement and disappointment, the determination and doubt, the cut-and-thrust of American lawmaking, and the sheer force of the personalities involved. This second edition offers a new introduction that shows how many of these programs survived a volatile beginning to become accepted, permanent elements of domestic policy. In addition, the book now includes transcripts of Johnson's pivotal phone conversations, underscoring the president's determination and resourcefulness, his judgments of personnel and programs, and his sensitivity to political fallout. There is an updated bibliography with a list of web and archival sources on the War on Poverty.
About the Author
Michael L. Gillette
directed the LBJ Library's Oral History Program from 1976 to 1991. He subsequently served as director of the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives for twelve years and is currently executive director of Humanities Texas, the state humanities council.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Camelot Confronts the Culture of Poverty
Chapter 2: The War on Poverty Task Force
Chapter 3: Creating the Community Action Program
Chapter 4: Employment versus Poverty
Chapter 5: Rural Programs
Chapter 6: The Enactment of Poverty Legislation
Chapter 7: The Office of Economic Opportunity: "The Most Action in Town"
Chapter 8: The Job Corps
Chapter 9: The Community Action Program
Chapter 10: An Early Success: Project Head Start
Chapter 11: Advocates for the Poor: VISTA and the Legal Services Program
Chapter 12: Delegated Programs
Chapter 13: Challenges to Head Start
Chapter 14: The Job Corps under Siege
Chapter 15: "Keeping the Trash in One Pile": Legislative Battles
Chapter 16: OEO's Struggle to Endure
Chapter 17: Epilogue and Assessments
Appendix: Oral History Interviews