Freedom Is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America's Struggle over Black Family Life from LBJ to Obama

James T. Patterson, Author . Basic $26.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-465-01357-9

Despite the author's caveat, “this is not a biography,” it is the life story (and afterlife story) of a document commonly named “The Moynihan Report”—its conception as a memo, its delivery in 1965 as a report entitled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” by Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan, and its independent, later development. Bancroft Prize-winning historian Patterson (Grand Expectations ) reviews the report's perspectives on “the woes of lower-class, inner-city black families”—at the center of which are nonmarital births—rooted variously in the historic past (slavery, migration to urban centers), contemporaneous economic forces (joblessness), or “black culture.” Patterson's wide scouring through the scholarly literature and the popular media, from the mid-1960s to the Obama era, results in a generous survey of the sociological and historical treatment of “lower-class black family life” and a reappraisal of whether the report scuttled LBJ's civil rights agenda. Alas, Patterson's thorough account is dulled by a plethora of repetitive statistics concerning out-of-wedlock births and a surfeit of reports concerning media handling; while it remains useful documentation, it is a tiresome read. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/22/2010
Release date: 05/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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