Wesley G. Phelps - A PEOPLE'S WAR ON POVERTY

Start: 
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 7:00pm
Location: 
2421 Bissonnet St
77005-1451 Houston
us
A People's War on Poverty: Urban Politics and Grassroots Activists in Houston Cover Image
$29.95
ISBN: 9780820346717
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Georgia Press - April 15th, 2014

In A PEOPLE'S WAR ON POVERTY, Wesley
G. Phelps investigates the on-the-ground implementation of President
Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty during the 1960s and 1970s. He argues
that the fluid interaction between federal policies, urban politics, and
grassroots activists created a significant site of conflict over the
meaning of American democracy and the rights of citizenship that
historians have largely overlooked. In Houston in particular, the War on
Poverty spawned fierce political battles that revealed fundamental
disagreements over what democracy meant, how far it should extend, and
who should benefit from it. Many of the program’s implementers took
seriously the federal mandate to empower the poor as they pushed for a
more participatory form of democracy that would include more citizens in
the political, cultural, and economic life of the city.

At the center of this book are the vitally important but virtually
forgotten grassroots activists who administered federal War on Poverty
programs, including church ministers, federal program volunteers,
students, local administrators, civil rights activists, and the poor
themselves. The moderate Great Society liberalism that motivated the
architects of the federal programs certainly galvanized local
antipoverty activists in Houston. However, their antipoverty philosophy
was driven further by prophetic religious traditions and visions of
participatory democracy and community organizing championed by the New
Left and iconoclastic figures like Saul Alinsky. By focusing on these
local actors, Phelps shows that grassroots activists in Houston were
influenced by a much more diverse set of intellectual and political
traditions, fueling their efforts to expand the meaning of democracy.
Ultimately, this episode in Houston’s history reveals both the
possibilities and the limits of urban democracy in the twentieth
century.