The War on Poverty and the Office of Economic Opportunity: Part 1: Records of the Office of Civil Rights, 1965-1968

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President Johnson, who as a teacher had observed extreme poverty in Texas among Mexican-Americans, launched an "unconditional war on poverty" in the first months of his presidency with the goal of eliminating hunger and deprivation from American life. The centerpiece of the War on Poverty was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created an Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to oversee a variety of community-based antipoverty programs. The OEO reflected a fragile consensus among policymakers that the best way to deal with poverty was not simply to raise the incomes of the poor but to help them better themselves through education, job training, and community development.

Historian Alan Brinkley has suggested that the most important domestic achievement of the Great Society may have been its success in translating some of the demands of the civil rights movement into law.

This collection provides a window into the implementation of the President's civil rights program in the War on Poverty. The collection contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, minutes of meetings, convention programs, and other records concerning the activities of Maurice Dawkins, Assistant Director for Civil Rights in the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Files on congressional supporters, foundations, lawyers, and local and regional civil rights groups are included. Among the materials in this collection are files on Adam Clayton Powell and correspondence pertaining to equal employment and activities of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee.

There are records on OEO Demonstration Projects and Programs:

  • Operation Breadbasket and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • New Orleans City Planning Commission activities
  • Denver Fair Housing Project
  • Ford Foundation and SCLC training programs
  • Harlem Economic Development Project

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