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Freedom Is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America's Struggle over Black Family Life - from LBJ to Obama [Paperback]

James T. Patterson

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Book Description

April 3 2012
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 Moynihan's 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 predicting-yet falling short of averting-decades 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 3 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465028535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465028535
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g

Product Description


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."

Kirkus Reviews
“An astute, timely study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s important 1965 jeremiad…an excellent revisiting of a prescient report.”

Library Journal
“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.”

“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.”

National Review
“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.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting subject July 21 2013
By Rodrigo F. Souza - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the 1960s, the Moynihan Report was very influential, specially helping conservatives like William F. Buckley to confirm certain conceptions they were already inclined to have about the pathological conditions of black communities. This influenced their view about the black activism of the era. Here Patterson examines the Report and its consequences.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An apologia for Moynihan that overlooks his many shortcomings Jan. 9 2014
By Susan Greenbaum - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book won a major prize, but I don't see why. It is a valentine that tells a lot of valuable information but wrapped in undeserved praise. Moynihan was neither original or insightful. He kicked up a predictable storm with his 1965 report, altered the course of the war on poverty in a bad way, and rode the contorversy to a long career. Patterson couldmhave been more critical and still liked him.
8 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misplaced Emphasis April 16 2011
By sandra martin - Published on
Daniel Patrick Moynihan's THE NEGRO FAMILY: THE CASE FOR NATIONAL ACTION spotlighted the fact that 23.6 percent of all babies born to black families in 1963 were out-of-wedlock. That number had grown to 72 percent in 2007, as James T. Patterson points out in this examination of Moynihan and his famous report.
Patterson trots out a parade of "black-perts" who castigate black culture to explain the increased number of unwed black mothers and welfare dependency. Yet, as someone who grew up in the black community at the time Moynihan's report was released, I view his statistics a different way. The quarter of black out-of-wedlock births cited obscure the fact that most blacks in that era-seventy-five percent- were born into two-parent households. Why seventy-five percent of two-parent black households in 1963 turned into 28 percent by 2007 would have been a useful topic to explore. Also useful would have been a focus on escalating rates of non- marital births among other racial groups, which Patterson treated as if an aside: 16.5% Asian, 26.6% non-Hispanic white, 49.9% Hispanic (62.4 Puerto Rican), 64.6% American Indian. Blacks, with 70.7% unwed births, look like the canaries in America's family coal mine. Whites today have roughly the same percentage of unwed births as blacks had in 1963. Where is their Moynihan report?
20 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and Incomplete - May 9 2010
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
Ronald Reagan was fond of saying that "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away." An effective quip; it was, alas, demonstrably untrue - well demonstrated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. (Another myth, that government can't do anything well is disproved by the Allied victory in WWII, the Marshal Plan, NASA's reaching the moon, and the interstate highway system.) Moynihan's "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" was released in 1965 and showed "startling increases in welfare dependency, matriarchy, and illegitimacy rates among blacks." At the time, these rates were about 8X that of whites. Yet, the 23.6% of black babies born out of wedlock in 1963 jumped to 72% by 2007, at which time 40% of all U.S. births were illegitimate. Another negative trend was that of AFDC families missing a father, rising from one-third in 1935 to two-thirds in 1963. (However, the meaning of this trend is unclear - due to changes in law aimed at focusing on single mothers, or growing family breakup?)

Problems with Patterson's book about Moynihan's report include too much space devoted to Moynihan's early life, and not enough detail about what it contained. The title, "Freedom Is Not Enough" comes from LBJ's 1965 speech calling for equality of result, not just opportunity. Unfortunately, Moynihan's report also showed that by the early 1960s inner-city welfare rates and unemployment rates were moving in opposite directions ('Moynihan's scissors'). The 'good news,' however, was that a black middle class was also emerging - leaving one with the problem of explaining the differences. Patterson does not do so.
5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Great Service July 13 2010
By R. Gaeta - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book arrived in perfect condition. I've been reading it a little at a time, for time's sake; I love Moynahan, and relish his words.

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