Beyond Civil Rights
Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and Its Legacy
University of Pennsylvania Press 2015
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network October 27, 2015 Lilian Calles Barger
Daniel Geary is the Mark Pigott Associate Professor in U.S. History at Trinity College Dublin. His book Beyond Civil Rights: The Moynihan Report and Its Legacy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015) is a detail and illuminating analysis of the reception of Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Geary argues that the report was neither a conservative or a liberal document but rather a conflicted one whose internal contradictions reflected the breakup of the liberal consensus and its legacy. The ambiguities of the report allowed multiple interpretations, from both the left and the right, and marked the emergence of neoconservatism. Conservatives used the report to rally against the liberal welfare state and promote African Americans self-help. Liberals saw in the document the need to go beyond legal equality to aggressive economic intervention through training programs, job creation and the family wage. The extensive and long debate over the report involved the issues of family structure, the source of “social pathology” and the “culture of poverty.” African American civil rights leader split over the report. The Black Power representatives attacked its white sociological perspective that failed to take into account how black people saw the situation. Black feminists protested the portrayal of black women as domineering matriarchs and the male breadwinner model. By the time of the Nixon administration, fatigue over the debates had Moynihan arguing for “benign neglect” rather than national action, believing in an unfolding of progress evident in the black middle-classes. After fifty years, the reverberation from the Moynihan report continues as Americans wrestle with the relationship between race and economic inequality and the unfinished business of social equality that moves beyond civil rights.