Monday, December 24, 2007


MOYNIHAN REPORT In August 1965, the Department of Labpr issued a report entitled "The Negro Family: The Case for Na­tional Action." Written in large part by Daniel P. Moynihan, an Assistant Secretary of Labor, the report came to be known as "The Moynihan Report." Moynihan's basic premise was that the African American family was highly unstable and, as a result, "the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling." Attribut­ing the instability of the black family to matriarchal households produced by divorce, separation and illegitimacy, Moynihan argued that the root of the problem revolved around the system­atic weakening of the black male's position in society, a condi­tion originating with slavery and subsequently reenforced by Jim Crowism, urbanization and unemployment.

Moynihan maintained that the deterioration of the black family would ultimately result in "a new crisis in race relations" unless immediate governmental action was taken to insure the stab­ility of the black family structure. The report recommended, therefore, that the government should adopt a policy "to bring the Negro American to full and equal sharing in the responsibili­ties and rewards of citizenship.To this end, the programs of the Federal government bearing on this objective [should] be de­signed to have the effect, directly or indirectly, of enhancing the stability and resources of the Negro American family."

Although the Moynihan Report was based on an impressive set of statistics which clearly demonstrated that black families, as compared to white families, were more likely to be depen­dent on welfare, and that illegitimacy, crime, delinquency and narcotics addiction were conditions more common to blacks than to whites, the interpretation of these statistics immediately caused a controversy. Critics of the report, for example, took issue with the contention that the "stability" of the white family should be emulated by blacks. One writer, mental health expert William Ryan, argued that "the Negro family does look as if it's falling apart when compared to the white family, but, by the same token, the urban family looks as if it's falling apart when compared with the farm family, and the modern family looks as if it's falling apart when compared with the family of our grandfathers." Other critics reacted negatively to the report's implication that lack of progress in the black com­munity was the result of family instability, rather than the result of white prejudice and oppression.

As valid as this criticism might be, the Moynihan Report's significance cannot be ignored. At the very least, it indicated a recognition of the fact that as the result of massive black urbanization, civil rights leaders were obligated to place more emphasis on the securing of socioeconomic equality, in addition to the previous emphasis upon legal and political equality for African Americans.

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