A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia

Univ of North Carolina Press
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Lisa Levenstein reframes highly charged debates over the origins of chronic African American poverty and the social policies and political struggles that led to the postwar urban crisis. A Movement Without Marches follows poor black women as they traveled from some of Philadelphia's most impoverished neighborhoods into its welfare offices, courtrooms, public housing, schools, and hospitals, laying claim to an unprecedented array of government benefits and services. With these resources came new constraints, as public officials frequently responded to women's efforts by limiting benefits and attempting to control their personal lives. Scathing public narratives about women's "dependency" and their children's "illegitimacy" placed African American women and public institutions at the center of the growing opposition to black migration and civil rights in northern U.S. cities. Countering stereotypes that have long plagued public debate, Levenstein offers a new paradigm for understanding postwar U.S. history.

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About the author

Lisa Levenstein is assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Apr 30, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780807889985
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

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To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.
WINNER OF THE 2017 PULITZER PRIZE GENERAL NON-FICTION 

From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
 
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Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE PEN/JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION | FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by The New York Times Book Review • The Boston Globe •  The Washington Post • NPR • Entertainment Weekly • The New Yorker • Bloomberg •  Esquire • Buzzfeed • Fortune • San Francisco Chronicle • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel • St. Louis Post-Dispatch •  Politico •  The Week • Bookpage • Kirkus Reviews •  Amazon •  Barnes and Noble Review •  Apple •  Library Journal • Chicago Public Library • Publishers Weekly • Booklist • Shelf Awareness
Black women have traditionally represented the canvas on which many debates about poverty and welfare have been drawn. For a quarter century after the publication of the notorious Moynihan report, poor black women were tarred with the same brush: "ghetto moms" or "welfare queens" living off the state, with little ambition or hope of an independent future. At the same time, the history of the civil rights movement has all too often succumbed to an idolatry that stresses the centrality of prominent leaders while overlooking those who fought daily for their survival in an often hostile urban landscape. In this collective biography, Rhonda Y. Williams takes us behind, and beyond, politically expedient labels to provide an incisive and intimate portrait of poor black women in urban America. Drawing on dozens of interviews, Williams challenges the notion that low-income housing was a resounding failure that doomed three consecutive generations of post-war Americans to entrenched poverty. Instead, she recovers a history of grass-roots activism, of political awakening, and of class mobility, all facilitated by the creation of affordable public housing. The stereotyping of black women, especially mothers, has obscured a complicated and nuanced reality too often warped by the political agendas of both the left and the right, and has prevented an accurate understanding of the successes and failures of government anti-poverty policy. At long last giving human form to a community of women who have too often been treated as faceless pawns in policy debates, Rhonda Y. Williams offers an unusually balanced and personal account of the urban war on poverty from the perspective of those who fought, and lived, it daily.
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