Brown historian speaks before U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Historians in the News

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Tuesday launched what its leader ambitiously called “the start of a national conversation on formulating a new civil rights agenda for the 21st century,” but without significant input from mainstream civil rights organizations or the panel’s two Democratic members....

James T. Patterson, a professor of history emeritus at Brown University in Providence, R.I., spoke before the commission about “the hailstorm of criticism” that Daniel Patrick Moynihan experienced when he wrote an internal report for the U.S. Department of Labor in 1965 called “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Mr. Moynihan, a Democrat, served as a U.S. senator for New York before he passed away in 2003. His report, which was leaked to the press, said blacks had been mistreated because of racism. It also said that a “pathology” in low-income black families was impeding their economic success. As an example of that pathology, the report said that 25 percent of African-Americans were born out of wedlock at the time. It also characterized “black matriarchy” as a problem.

Mr. Patterson said Mr. Moynihan was called a racist and “hammered” by feminists. As a result, he said, the U.S. has endured decades of “nondebate or dishonest debate” about black families. Mr. Patterson also noted that the percentage of African-American children born out of wedlock has escalated to 73 percent since the Moynihan study, compared with an average of about 40 percent of all U.S. children.

Mr. Patterson cited President Barack Obama’s support of holistic educational programs as promising policies for combatting the breakdown of the black family structure.

As an example, he pointed to the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides low-income families in Harlem with social and educational programs from before children are born through their school careers. He noted that the Obama administration has pushed for funding to create similar programs throughout the nation....
Read entire article at Education Week

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