Fifty years later, the Moynihan Report is still a contested symbol among American thinkers and policymakers, cited by everyone from Barack Obama to Paul Ryan. To aid readers interested in exploring the report and the issues it raises, The Atlantic is publishing this annotated copy of The Negro Family.
Sonic X | Sonic News Network | FANDOM powered by Wikia
The United States is approaching a new crisis in race relations. In the decade that began with the school desegregation decision of the Supreme Court, and ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of The Civil Rights Act of outlawed racial discrimination as well as discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, or national origin. It was the legislative death-knell for the system of Jim Crow segregation that had prevailed in the South since the late 19th century , the demand of Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met.
The effort, no matter how savage and brutal, of some State and local governments to thwart the exercise of those rights is doomed. The nation will not put up with it—least of all the Negroes. The present moment will pass. In the meantime, a new period is beginning. In this new period the expectations of the Negro Americans will go beyond civil rights.
Being Americans, they will now expect that in the near future equal opportunities for them as a group will produce roughly equal results, as compared with other groups. This is not going to happen. Nor will it happen for generations to come unless a new and special effort is made. There are two reasons. First, the racist virus in the American blood stream still afflicts us: Negroes will encounter serious personal prejudice for at least another generation. Second, three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment have taken their toll on the Negro people.
The harsh fact is that as a group, at the present time, in terms of ability to win out in the competitions of American life, they are not equal to most of those groups with which they will be competing. Individually, Negro Americans reach the highest peaks of achievement. But collectively, in the spectrum of American ethnic and religious and regional groups, where some get plenty and some get none, where some send eighty percent of their children to college and others pull them out of school at the 8th grade, Negroes are among the weakest.
- Wall Art for Your Personal Space.
- Lobstiné (Littérature Française) (French Edition);
- Vigil: Spiritual reflections on your money and sanity!
- USE FENG SHUI TO GROW YOUR WEALTH.
- Life of William Blake, “Pictor Ignotus”, vol. 1.
- Custom Map Prints, Star Maps and Personalized Posters - Craft & Oak!
The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting worse, not better. Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceive. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.
The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence—not final, but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post war trend is unmistakable.
So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself. The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here. A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure.
This would be a new departure for Federal policy. And a difficult one. But it almost certainly offers the only possibility of resolving in our time what is, after all, the nation's oldest, and most intransigent, and now its most dangerous social problem. His book, An American Dilemma, remained the most prominent study of African Americans at the time Moynihan was writing.
The Negro American revolution is rightly regarded as the most important domestic event of the postwar period in the United States. There has been none more important. The Negro American revolution holds forth the prospect that the American Republic, which at birth was flawed by the institution of Negro slavery, and which throughout its history has been marred by the unequal treatment of Negro citizens, will at last redeem the full promise of the Declaration of Independence.
Although the Negro leadership has conducted itself with the strictest propriety, acting always and only as American citizens asserting their rights within the framework of the American political system, it is no less clear that the movement has profound international implications. Like other policymakers, Moynihan weighed Cold War imperatives when considering African American rights. He worried that Communists used the mistreatment of African Americans as propaganda and damaged American efforts to influence new nations in Africa and Asia.
It was in no way a matter of chance that the nonviolent tactics and philosophy of the movement, as it began in the South, were consciously adapted from the techniques by which the Congress Party undertook to free the Indian nation from British colonial rule. It was not a matter of chance that the Negro movement caught fire in America at just that moment when the nations of Africa were gaining their freedom. Nor is it merely incidental that the world should have fastened its attention on events in the United States at a time when the possibility that the nations of the world will divide along color lines seems suddenly not only possible, but even imminent.
Such racist views have made progress within the Negro American community itself—which can hardly be expected to be immune to a virus that is endemic in the white community. The Black Muslim doctrines, based on total alienation from the white world, exert a powerful influence. On the far left, the attraction of Chinese Communism can no longer be ignored.
Moynihan made a common liberal argument of the time that social reforms were needed to forestall the growth of African American radicalism. He especially worried about the Nation of Islam, a black- nationalist religion that rapidly gained membership in the early s. Its one-time spokesperson, Malcolm X, drew attention with his barbed criticisms of American racism and rejection of nonviolent resistance in favor of self-defense.
It is clear that what happens in America is being taken as a sign of what can, or must, happen in the world at large. The course of world events will be profoundly affected by the success or failure of the Negro American revolution in seeking the peaceful assimilation of the races in the United States.
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Martin Luther King was as much an expression of the hope for the future, as it was recognition for past achievement. It is no less clear that carrying this revolution forward to a successful conclusion is a first priority confronting the Great Society. Moynihan especially favored stronger measures to reduce unemployment and family allowances that would provide every American family a guaranteed minimum annual income. The political events were three: First, the Negroes themselves organized as a mass movement.
Their organizations have been in some ways better disciplined and better led than any in our history. They have established an unprecedented alliance with religious groups throughout the nation and have maintained close ties with both political parties and with most segments of the trade union movement.
Second, the Kennedy-Johnson Administration committed the Federal government to the cause of Negro equality. This had never happened before.
Third, the Presidential election was practically a referendum on this commitment: if these were terms made by the opposition, they were in effect accepted by the President. The overwhelming victory of President Johnson must be taken as emphatic popular endorsement of the unmistakable, and openly avowed course which the Federal government has pursued under his leadership.
Second, the Economic Opportunity Act of Here Moynihan refers to the principal legislation of the War on Poverty, that established the Office of Economic Opportunity began a major national effort to abolish poverty, a condition in which almost half of Negro families are living. Third, the Civil Rights Act of marked the end of the era of legal and formal discrimination against Negroes and created important new machinery for combating covert discrimination and unequal treatment. The Act does not guarantee an end to harassment in matters such as voter registration, but does make it more or less incumbent upon government to take further steps to thwart such efforts when they do occur.
The Voting Rights Act was signed into law in August, Moynihan assumed, perhaps too optimistically, that African Americans would soon enjoy full civil and political rights. The legal events were no less specific. Beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in , through the decade that culminated in the recent decisions upholding Title II of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, has used every opportunity to combat unequal treatment of Negro citizens. It may be put as a general proposition that the laws of the United States now look upon any such treatment as obnoxious, and that the courts will strike it down wherever it appears.
With these events behind us, the nation now faces a different set of challenges, which may prove more difficult to meet, if only because they cannot be cast as concrete propositions of right and wrong. In this section, Moynihan registered the demands of the civil-rights movement for economic equality. Major civil-rights organizations advanced ambitious plans to combat poverty, which disproportionately affected African Americans. Liberty and Equality are the twin ideals of American democracy.
But they are not the same thing. Nor, most importantly, are they equally attractive to all groups at any given time nor yet are they always compatible, one with the other. Many persons who would gladly die for liberty are appalled by equality. Many who are devoted to equality are puzzled and even troubled by liberty. Much of the political history of the American nation can be seen as a competition between these two ideals, as for example, the unending troubles between capital and labor.
By and large, liberty has been the ideal with the higher social prestige in America. It has been the middle class aspiration, par excellence. Note the assertions of the conservative right that ours is a republic, not a democracy. Equality, on the other hand, has enjoyed tolerance more than acceptance. American democracy has not always been successful in maintaining a balance between these two ideals, and notably so where the Negro American is concerned. It was therefore possible in the century that followed to deprive their descendants of much of their liberty as well.
The ideal of equality does not ordain that all persons end up, as well as start out equal. It is increasingly demanded that the distribution of success and failure within one group be roughly comparable to that within other groups. It is not enough that all individuals start out on even terms, if the members of one group almost invariably end up well to the fore, and those of another far to the rear. This is what ethnic politics are all about in America, and in the main the Negro American demands are being put forth in this now traditional and established framework.
Here a point of semantics must be grasped. The demand for Equality of Opportunity has been generally perceived by white Americans as a demand for liberty, a demand not to be excluded from the competitions of life—at the polling place, in the scholarship examinations, at the personnel office, on the housing market. Liberty does, of course, demand that everyone be free to try his luck, or test his skill in such matters. But these opportunities do not necessarily produce equality: on the contrary, to the extent that winners imply losers, equality of opportunity almost insures inequality of results.
The point of semantics is that equality of opportunity now has a different meaning for Negroes than it has for whites. It is not or at least no longer a demand for liberty alone, but also for equality—in terms of group results. Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the March on Washington, was a civil-rights leader and socialist who continuously linked racial equality to the right to earn a decent living. Philip Randolph in , and endorsed by major civil-rights leaders.
The demand for equality in education Some aspects of the new laws do guarantee results, in the sense that upon enactment and enforcement they bring about an objective that is an end in itself, e. Other provisions are at once terminal and intermediary. The portions of the Civil Rights Act dealing with voting rights will no doubt lead to further enlargements of the freedom of the Negro American. But by and large, the programs that have been enacted in the first phase of the Negro revolution—Manpower Retraining, the Job Corps, Community Action, et al. They cannot insure the outcome. By naming the principal programs of the War on Poverty and suggesting their inadequacy, Moynihan hinted at the need for new and expanded antipoverty programs as a solution to demands for racial equality.
The principal challenge of the next phase of the Negro revolution is to make certain that equality of results will now follow. If we do not, there will be no social peace in the United States for generations. Here Moynihan warned that failure to achieve economic equality for African Americans would lead to social disorder.
His warning seemed prescient when his report became public just prior to the Watts Riots of August, The time, therefore, is at hand for an unflinching look at the present potential of Negro Americans to move from where they now are to where they want, and ought to be.
There is no very satisfactory way, at present, to measure social health or social pathology within an ethnic, or religious, or geographical community. Data are few and uncertain, and conclusions drawn from them, including the conclusions that follow, are subject to the grossest error. That being the case, it has to be said that there is a considerable body of evidence to support the conclusion that Negro social structure, in particular the Negro family, battered and harassed by discrimination, injustice, and uprooting, is in the deepest trouble.
While many young Negroes are moving ahead to unprecedented levels of achievement, many more are falling further and further behind. After an intensive study of the life of central Harlem, the board of directors of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. It is the conclusion of this survey of the available national data, that what is true of central Harlem, can be said to be true of the Negro American world in general. However, certain data series are available only in terms of the white and nonwhite population. Where this is the case, the nonwhite data have been used as if they referred only to Negroes.
This necessarily introduces some inaccuracies, but it does not appear to produce any significant distortions. In , Negroes were The remaining 7. Moynihan wrote at a time when African Americans were overwhelmingly the largest racial minority in the U. The demography of the U. Moynihan, like many Americans at the time, tended to see American race relations in terms of black-and-white, despite the long-term presence of other groups.
In a memo to President Johnson summarizing the report, however, he cited the success of Japanese - and Chinese - Americans as proof that racial minorities in the U. The combined male unemployment rates of these groups is lower than that of Negroes. In matters relating to family stability, the smaller groups are probably more stable. Thus 21 percent of Negro women who have ever married are separated, divorced, or their husbands are absent for other reasons. The comparable figure for Indians is 14 percent; Japanese, 7 percent; Chinese 6 percent.
Therefore, the statistics on nonwhites generally understate the degree of disorganization of the Negro family and underemployment of Negro men. At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family. Moynihan claimed that family instability was the main reason why African Americans would fail to achieve equal results with other American groups. He traced the roots of the problems he perceived in African American family structure to slavery and past discrimination. There is probably no single fact of Negro American life so little understood by whites.
The Negro situation is commonly perceived by whites in terms of the visible manifestation of discrimination and poverty, in part because Negro protest is directed against such obstacles, and in part, no doubt, because these are facts which involve the actions and attitudes of the white community as well. It is more difficult, however, for whites to perceive the effect that three centuries of exploitation have had on the fabric of Negro society itself.
Here the consequences of the historic injustices done to Negro Americans are silent and hidden from view. But here is where the true injury has occurred: unless this damage is repaired, all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little. The role of the family in shaping character and ability is so pervasive as to be easily overlooked.
The family is the basic social unit of American life; it is the basic socializing unit. A fundamental insight of psychoanalytic theory, for example, is that the child learns a way of looking at life in his early years through which all later experience is viewed and which profoundly shapes his adult conduct. When Moynihan discussed the negative effects of family instability on childhood development, he wrote from personal experience. His father abandoned his family when Moynihan was 10 years old, which plunged the family from a comfortable middle-class life into a precarious existence during the Great Depression.
Moynihan underwent psychotherapy to understand the effects of this childhood experience on his psyche. It may be hazarded that the reason family structure does not loom larger in public discussion of social issues is that people tend to assume that the nature of family life is about the same throughout American society. The mass media and the development of suburbia have created an image of the American family as a highly standardized phenomenon.
It is therefore easy to assume that whatever it is that makes for differences among individuals or groups of individuals, it is not a different family structure. There is much truth to this; as with any other nation, Americans are producing a recognizable family system. Moynihan was writing at a time when most Americans accepted as he did the nuclear-family norm, even though many American families failed to conform to the ideal of a male breadwinner and female homemaker.
But that process is not completed by any means. There are still, for example, important differences in family patterns surviving from the age of the great European migration to the United States, and these variations account for notable differences in the progress and assimilation of various ethnic and religious groups. But there is one truly great discontinuity in family structure in the United States at the present time: that between the white world in general and that of the Negro American.
By claiming that the main differences in American family structure were racial, Moynihan overlooked significant class differences. Some criticized Moynihan for failing to control for class when comparing white and black families. By contrast, the family structure of lower class Negroes is highly unstable, and in many urban centers is approaching complete breakdown.
There is considerable evidence that the Negro community is in fact dividing between a stable middle class group that is steadily growing stronger and more successful, and an increasingly disorganized and disadvantaged lower class group. There are indications, for example, that the middle class Negro family puts a higher premium on family stability and the conserving of family resources than does the white middle class family. First, the emergence and increasing visibility of a Negro middle class may beguile the nation into supposing that the circumstances of the remainder of the Negro community are equally prosperous, whereas just the opposite is true at present, and is likely to continue so.
Second, the lumping of all Negroes together in one statistical measurement very probably conceals the extent of the disorganization among the lower-class group. If conditions are improving for one and deteriorating for the other, the resultant statistical averages might show no change. Further, the statistics on the Negro family and most other subjects treated in this paper refer only to a specific point in time. They are a vertical measure of the situation at a given movement. They do not measure the experience of individuals over time. Thus the average monthly unemployment rate for Negro males for is recorded as 9 percent.
But during , some 29 percent of Negro males were unemployed at one time or another. Similarly, for example, if 36 percent of Negro children are living in broken homes at any specific moment , it is likely that a far higher proportion of Negro children find themselves in that situation at one time or another in their lives. Nearly a quarter of Negro women living in cities who have ever married are divorced, separated, or are living apart from their husbands. The rates are highest in the urban Northeast where 26 percent of Negro women ever married are either divorced, separated, or have their husbands absent.
On the urban frontier, the proportion of husbands absent is even higher. In New York City in , it was Among ever-married nonwhite women in the nation, the proportion with husbands present declined in every age group over the decade as follows: [chart not reproduced]. Although similar declines occurred among white females, the proportion of white husbands present never dropped below 90 percent except for the first and last age group.
Both white and Negro illegitimacy rates have been increasing, although from dramatically different bases. The white rate was 2 percent in ; it was 3. In that period, the Negro rate went from The numbers that so alarmed Moynihan have risen dramatically since. In , 73 percent of non-Hispanic black children were born out of wedlock. However, 29 percent of non-Hispanic white children were also born out of wedlock, a higher percentage than for blacks at the time Moynihan was writing.
Some praise Moynihan for his prescience in identifying family trends for African Americans; however, he was no doubt mistaken in assuming the stability of white family structures. The number of illegitimate children per 1, live births increased by 11 among whites in the period , but by 68 among nonwhites. There are, of course, limits to the dependability of these statistics.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics staff that helped compile the data warned Moynihan that different cultural standards meant that many white middle-class families hid illegitimate births while many lower-class blacks formed stable unions even when not legally married. There are almost certainly a considerable number of Negro children who, although technically illegitimate, are in fact the offspring of stable unions. On the other hand, it may be assumed that many births that are in fact illegitimate are recorded otherwise. Probably the two opposite effects cancel each other out.
On the urban frontier, the nonwhite illegitimacy rates are usually higher than the national average, and the increase of late has been drastic. In the District of Columbia, the illegitimacy rate for nonwhites grew from A similar picture of disintegrating Negro marriages emerges from the divorce statistics. Divorces have increased of late for both whites and nonwhites, but at a much greater rate for the latter. In both groups had a divorce rate of 2.
By the white rate had risen to 3. As a direct result of this high rate of divorce, separation, and desertion, a very large percent of Negro families are headed by females. While the percentage of such families among whites has been dropping since , it has been rising among Negroes. The percent of nonwhite families headed by a female is more than double the percent for whites. Fatherless nonwhite families increased by a sixth between and , but held constant for white families. It has been estimated that only a minority of Negro children reach the age of 18 having lived all their lives with both of their parents.
Once again, this measure of family disorganization is found to be diminishing among white families and increasing among Negro families. The majority of Negro children receive public assistance under the AFDC program at one point or another in their childhood. The program was already controversial at the time Moynihan was writing. Opposition to it would help fuel growing opposition to the liberal welfare state and eventually lead to the abolition of AFDC in , which Moynihan adamantly opposed as a U.
At present, 14 percent of Negro children are receiving AFDC assistance, as against 2 percent of white children. Eight percent of white children receive such assistance at some time, as against 56 percent of nonwhites, according to an extrapolation based on HEW data. Let it be noted, however, that out of a total of 1. Again, the situation may be said to be worsening. In the beginning, the number of AFDC families in which the father was absent because of desertion was less than a third of the total.
Today it is two thirds. She is not free to remarry and has had an illegitimate child since her husband left. Almost 90 percent of the ADC families are Negro. The steady expansion of this welfare program, as of public assistance programs in general, can be taken as a measure of the steady disintegration of the Negro family structure over the past generation in the United States.
American slavery was profoundly different from, and in its lasting effects on individuals and their children, indescribably worse than, any recorded servitude, ancient or modern. The peculiar nature of American slavery was noted by Alexis de Tocqueville and others, but it was not until that Frank Tannenbaum, a South American specialist, pointed to the striking differences between Brazilian and American slavery.
The notion that U. The feudal, Catholic society of Brazil had a legal and religious tradition which accorded the slave a place as a human being in the hierarchy of society—a luckless, miserable place, to be sure, but a place withal. In contrast, there was nothing in the tradition of English law or Protestant theology which could accommodate to the fact of human bondage — the slaves were therefore reduced to the status of chattels — often, no doubt, well cared for, even privileged chattels, but chattels nevertheless.
The Government encouraged manumission, and the freedom of infants could often be purchased for a small sum at the baptismal font. In short: the Brazilian slave knew he was a man, and that he differed in degree, not in kind, from his master. The slave could not, by law, be taught to read or write; he could not practice any religion without the permission of his master, and could never meet with his fellows, for religious or any other purposes, except in the presence of a white; and finally, if a master wished to free him, every legal obstacle was used to thwart such action.
This was not what slavery meant in the ancient world, in medieval and early modern Europe, or in Brazil and the West Indies. If we compared the present situation of the American Negro with that of, let us say, Brazilian Negroes who were slaves 20 years longer , we begin to suspect that the differences are the result of very different patterns of slavery. Today the Brazilian Negroes are Brazilians; though most are poor and do the hard and dirty work of the country, as Negroes do in the United States, they are not cut off from society.
They reach into its highest strata, merging there—in smaller and smaller numbers, it is true, but with complete acceptance—with other Brazilians of all kinds. The relations between Negroes and whites in Brazil show nothing of the mass irrationality that prevails in this country. Stanley M. Elkins, drawing on the aberrant behavior of the prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, drew an elaborate parallel between the two institutions.
Stanley Elkins was a leading historian of slavery. He argued that slavery stripped African Americans of agency and culture. Yet no African anthropological data have ever shown any personality type resembling Sambo; and the concentration camps molded the equivalent personality pattern in a wide variety of Caucasian prisoners.
Negroes in bondage, stripped of their African heritage, were placed in a completely dependent role. All of their rewards came, not from individual initiative and enterprise, but from absolute obedience—a situation that severely depresses the need for achievement among all peoples. Most important of all, slavery vitiated family life Since many slaveowners neither fostered Christian marriage among their slave couples nor hesitated to separate them on the auction block, the slave household often developed a fatherless matrifocal mother-centered pattern.
Debate over this issue has often been connected to the reception of the Moynihan Report. In , Herbert Gutman published The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, in which he sought to refute Moynihan by proving the existence of deep-rooted kinship networks during slavery and the formation of male-headed nuclear families among African Americans after slavery. With the emancipation of the slaves, the Negro American family began to form in the United States on a widespread scale.
But it did so in an atmosphere markedly different from that which has produced the white American family. The Negro was given liberty, but not equality. Life remained hazardous and marginal. Of the greatest importance, the Negro male, particularly in the South, became an object of intense hostility, an attitude unquestionably based in some measure of fear.
When Jim Crow made its appearance towards the end of the 19th century, it may be speculated that it was the Negro male who was most humiliated thereby; the male was more likely to use public facilities, which rapidly became segregated once the process began, and just as important, segregation, and the submissiveness it exacts, is surely more destructive to the male than to the female personality.
African American feminists sharply disputed this aspect of the Moynihan Report. Unquestionably, these events worked against the emergence of a strong father figure. The very essence of the male animal, from the bantam rooster to the four star general, is to strut. Indeed, in 19th century America, a particular type of exaggerated male boastfulness became almost a national style. Not for the Negro male. In this situation, the Negro family made but little progress toward the middle class pattern of the present time. When the family breaks down—as it does under slavery, under certain forms of indentured labor and serfdom, in periods of extreme social unrest during wars, revolutions, famines, and epidemics, or in periods of abrupt transition from one type of economy to another—this delicate line of transmission is broken.
Men may founder badly in these periods, during which the primary unit may again become mother and child, the biologically given, and the special conditions under which man has held his social traditions in trust are violated and distorted. Franklin Frazier At the time Moynihan was writing, E. Franklin Frazier was the most influential scholar on African American families, though he had died in Moynihan followed Frazier in linking the struggles of African American families to slavery, Jim Crow, urbanization, and unemployment.
Country life and city life are profoundly different. The gradual shift of American society from a rural to an urban basis over the past century and a half has caused abundant strains, many of which are still much in evidence. When this shift occurs suddenly, drastically, in one or two generations, the effect is immensely disruptive of traditional social patterns. It was this abrupt transition that produced the wild Irish slums of the 19th Century Northeast.
Moynihan, trading on his Irish - American heritage, frequently compared African American ghettoes to 19th-century Irish slums, a subject he wrote about in Beyond the Melting Pot. Drunkenness, crime, corruption, discrimination, family disorganization, juvenile delinquency were the routine of that era. In our own time, the same sudden transition has produced the Negro slum—different from, but hardly better than its predecessors, and fundamentally the result of the same process.
Negroes are now more urbanized than whites. Moynihan was writing toward the end of the Great Migration, the period between and that saw six million African Americans leave the rural South for the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West. The decline of Southern agriculture and the growth of industrial jobs fueled this mass migration. Negro families in the cities are more frequently headed by a woman than those in the country.
The difference between the white and Negro proportions of families headed by a woman is greater in the city than in the country. The promise of the city has so far been denied the majority of Negro migrants, and most particularly the Negro family. In , E. Striking contrasts in levels of civilization and economic well being among these newcomers to modern civilization seem to baffle any attempt to discover order and direction in their mode of life. But, if these families have managed to preserve their integrity until they reach the northern city, poverty, ignorance, and color force them to seek homes in deteriorated slum areas from which practically all institutional life has disappeared.
Hence, at the same time that these simple rural families are losing their internal cohesion, they are being freed from the controlling force of public opinion and communal institutions. Family desertion among Negroes in cities appears, then, to be one of the inevitable consequences of the impact of urban life on the simple family organization and folk culture which the Negro has evolved in the rural South.
The distribution of desertions in relation to the general economic and cultural organization of Negro communities that have grown up in our American cities shows in a striking manner the influence of selective factors in the process of adjustment to the urban environment. Critics of Moynihan often accused him of unfairly judging working-class African American families by the cultural standards of middle-class white Americans.
Modern means of communication will break down the isolation of the world of the black folk, and, as long as the bankrupt system of southern agriculture exists, Negro families will continue to seek a living in the towns and cities of the country. They will crowd the slum areas of southern cities or make their way to northern cities where their family life will become disrupted and their poverty will force them to depend upon charity. In every index of family pathology—divorce, separation, and desertion, female family head, children in broken homes, and illegitimacy—the contrast between the urban and rural environment for Negro families is unmistakable.
Harlem, into which Negroes began to move early in this century, is the center and symbol of the urban life of the Negro American. Conditions in Harlem are not worse, they are probably better than in most Negro ghettos. The social disorganization of central Harlem, comprising ten health areas, was thoroughly documented by the HARYOU report, save for the illegitimacy rates. There could hardly be a more dramatic demonstration of the crumbling—the breaking—of the family structure on the urban frontier. The impact of unemployment on the Negro family, and particularly on the Negro male, is the least understood of all the developments that have contributed to the present crisis.
There is little analysis because there has been almost no inquiry. Unemployment, for whites and nonwhites alike, has on the whole been treated as an economic phenomenon, with almost no attention paid for at least a quarter-century to social and personal consequences. Moynihan wrote The Negro Family in part to highlight the negative social effects of unemployment, a key concern of the Department of Labor that issued his report.
Moynihan specifically worried about male unemployment and the effects of male-breadwinner absence on families. In , Edward Wight Bakke Bakke was a Yale University professor of sociology and economics best known for his Depression-era studies of the effects of unemployment conducted in New Haven, Connecticut described the effects of unemployment on family structure in terms of six stages of adjustment. The first two stages end with the exhaustion of credit and the entry of the wife into the labor force. The father is no longer the provider and the elder children become resentful.
The third stage is the critical one of commencing a new day to day existence. At this point two women are in charge:. Already suffering a loss in prestige and authority in the family because of his failure to be the chief bread winner, the male head of the family feels deeply this obvious transfer of planning for the family's well being to two women, one of them an outsider. His role is reduced to that of errand boy to and from the relief office. If the family makes it through this stage Bakke finds that it is likely to survive, and the rest of the process is one of adjustment.
The critical element of adjustment was not welfare payments, but work. Work is precisely the one thing the Negro family head in such circumstances has not received over the past generation. The fundamental, overwhelming fact is that Negro unemployment , with the exception of a few years during World War II and the Korean War, has continued at disaster levels for 35 years. Once again, this is particularly the case in the northern urban areas to which the Negro population has been moving.
The Census taken in the spring, before the depression was in full swing showed Negro unemployment at 6. But taking out the South reversed the relationship: white 7. By , the 2 to 1 white-Negro unemployment relationship that persists to this day had clearly emerged. Taking out the South again, whites were The unemployment rates for African Americans continue to be roughly double those of whites to the present day.
In July, , for example, the African American unemployment rate was Since , the Negro worker has been tremendously affected by the movements of the business cycle and of employment. He has been hit worse by declines than whites, and proportionately helped more by recoveries. From to , the level of the Negro male unemployment was on a long run rising trend, while at the same time following the short run ups and downs of the business cycle.
During the same period, the number of broken families in the Negro world was also on a long run rise, with intermediate ups and downs. A glance at the chart on page 22 reveals that the series move in the same directions—up and down together, with a long run rising trend—but that the peaks and troughs are 1 year out of phase.
Thus unemployment peaks 1 year before broken families, and so on. By plotting these series in terms of deviation from trend, and moving the unemployment curve 1 year ahead , we see the clear relation of the two otherwise seemingly unrelated series of events; the cyclical swings in unemployment have their counterpart in increases and decreases in separations.
This crucial finding of the Moynihan Report infers that family instability results from unemployment. It suggests that government can best strengthen African American families by improving employment opportunities for black men. The effect of recession unemployment on divorces further illustrates the economic roots of the problem.
The nonwhite divorce rates dipped slightly in high unemployment years like , , and See table 21 [not reproduced] on page Divorce is expensive: those without money resort to separation or desertion. While divorce is not a desirable goal for a society, it recognizes the importance of marriage and family, and for children some family continuity and support is more likely when the institution of the family has been so recognized. The conclusion from these and similar data is difficult to avoid: During times when jobs were reasonably plentiful although at no time during this period, save perhaps the first 2 years, did the unemployment rate for Negro males drop to anything like a reasonable level the Negro family became stronger and more stable.
As jobs became more and more difficult to find, the stability of the family became more and more difficult to maintain. This relation is clearly seen in terms of the illegitimacy rates of census tracts in the District of Columbia compared with male unemployment rates in the same neighborhoods. In , a prosperous year, Almost half of these men were out of work 15 weeks or more.
The impact of poverty on Negro family structure is no less obvious, although again it may not be widely acknowledged. There would seem to be an American tradition, agrarian in its origins but reinforced by attitudes of urban immigrant groups, to the effect that family morality and stability decline as income and social position rise. Over the years this may have provided some consolation to the poor, but there is little evidence that it is true.
On the contrary, higher family incomes are unmistakably associated with greater family stability—which comes first may be a matter for conjecture, but the conjunction of the two characteristics is unmistakable. The Negro family is no exception. The American wage system is conspicuous in the degree to which it provides high incomes for individuals, but is rarely adjusted to insure that family, as well as individual needs are met.
American arrangements do not, save for income tax deductions. Here Moynihan hints at his support for a system of family allowances like those adopted by many European nations in which every family is provided a guaranteed minimum income by the government with higher payments for larger families. The resulting revision illustrated the significance of family size.
Using these criteria, the number of poor families is smaller, but the number of large families who are poor increases, and the number of children in poverty rises by more than one third—from 11 million to 15 million. This means that one-fourth of the Nation's children live in families that are poor. A third of these children belong to families in which the father was not only present, but was employed the year round. In overall terms, median family income is lower for large families than for small families. Families of six or more children have median incomes 24 percent below families with three.
It may be added that 47 percent of young men who fail the Selective Service education test come from families of six or more. During the decade of heavy Negro migration to the cities of the North and West, the ratio of nonwhite to white family income in cities increased from 57 to 63 percent. Corresponding declines in the ratio in the rural nonfarm and farm areas kept the national ratio virtually unchanged.
But between and , median nonwhite family income slipped from 55 percent to 53 percent of white income. The drop occurred in three regions, with only the South, where a larger proportion of Negro families have more than one earner, showing a slight improvement. Because in general terms Negro families have the largest number of children and the lowest incomes, many Negro fathers literally cannot support their families.
Because the father is either not present, is unemployed, or makes such a low wage, the Negro woman goes to work. Fifty six percent of Negro women, age 25 to 64, are in the work force, against 42 percent of white women. This dependence on the mother's income undermines the position of the father and deprives the children of the kind of attention, particularly in school matters, which is now a standard feature of middle-class upbringing. Moynihan believed that fathers should earn incomes sufficient for mothers of young children to focus on raising their children, though he supported women working outside the home before they had children and after their children had grown up.
Moynihan viewed the inability of many African American women to be stay-at-home mothers for economic reasons as a form of racial injustice. The dimensions of the problems of Negro Americans are compounded by the present extraordinary growth in Negro population. At the founding of the nation, and into the first decade of the 19th century, 1 American in 5 was a Negro. Since , the Negro population has grown at a rate of 2.
If this rate continues, in seven years 1 American in 8 will be nonwhite. These changes are the result of a declining Negro death rate, now approaching that of the nation generally, and a fertility rate that grew steadily during the postwar period. By , the ratio of white to nonwhite fertility rates reached Both the white and nonwhite fertility rates have declined since , but the differential has not narrowed.
Family size increased among nonwhite families between and —as much for those without fathers as for those with fathers. Average family size changed little among white families, with a slight increase in the size of husband-wife families balanced by a decline in the size of families without fathers. Negro women not only have more children, but have them earlier. Thus in , there were 1, children ever born per thousand ever-married nonwhite women 15 to 19 years of age, as against only among white women, a ratio of 1.
The Negro fertility rate overall is now 1. This population growth must inevitably lead to an unconcealable crisis in Negro unemployment. The most conspicuous failure of the American social system in the past 10 years has been its inadequacy in providing jobs for Negro youth. Thus, in January the unemployment rate for Negro teenagers stood at 29 percent. This problem will now become steadily more serious. The nonwhite labor force will correspondingly increase 20 percent in the next 6 years, double the rate of increase in the nonwhite labor force of the past decade. As with the population as a whole, there is much evidence that children are being born most rapidly in those Negro families with the least financial resources.
This is an ancient pattern, but because the needs of children are greater today it is very possible that the education and opportunity gap between the offspring of these families and those of stable middle-class unions is not closing, but is growing wider. A cycle is at work; too many children too early make it most difficult for the parents to finish school. In February, , 38 percent of the white girls who dropped out of school did so because of marriage or pregnancy, as against 49 percent of nonwhite girls. They were betrayed and arrested soon after.
Identified as a Jews, Levi was transported to the concentration camp at Fossoli di Carpi near Modena. The trip lasted five days. Upon their arrival the men were separated from the women and children and sent to barrack number Nearly all the people who died, died during this first phase. Our way of life had changed totally in the space of a few days, especially in the case of us western Jews. For us, the Italian, French and Dutch Jews, it was as if we had been plucked straight from our houses to a concentration camp. But I could feel, along with fear and hunger and exhaustion, an extremely intense need to understand the world around me.
To begin with, the language. I know a little German, but I felt I had to know a lot more. I went so far as to take private lessons, paid for with part of my bread ration. As Italian Jews we felt especially defenseless. Along with the Greeks we were the lowest of the low, and in some way we were worse off than the Greeks because they were at least used to discrimination, there was a long history of anti-Semitism in Salonika [Thessaloniki], and many of them were old hands, had developed hard shells through their contacts with other Greeks.
But the Italians, so used to being treated as equals of all other Italians, had no shield, we were as naked as eggs without shells. He met a mason from Fossano named Lorenzo Perrone, who worked for an Italian company with a branch at Auschwitz and who could move about with moderate freedom. Perrone took Levi under his wing, securing for him a bowl of soup whenever he could. Levi was then transferred to a laboratory because of his background as a chemist. Levi managed to stay healthy almost as long as he was in the camp. The other prisoners were moved to Buchenwald and Mauthausen. Almost all of them died.
In June, he began his journey home through a devastated Europe wandering for nine months at the mercy of random transports. Levi and his companions traveled first into Byelorussia and then finally home to Italy after crossing Hungary, the Ukraine, Romania, and Austria. Levi wrote of this experience in The Truce. Destiny decided that I should find adventure in the awful mess of a Europe swept by war. The government lead by Palmiro Togliatti extends the amnesty to all functionaries implicated with fascist and war crimes. Nothing remains of the Hiroshima schoolgirl, A shadow printed on a wall by the light of a thousand suns, Victim sacrificed on the altar of fear.
Powerful of the earth, masters of new poisons, Sad secret guardians of final thunder, The torments heaven sends us are enough. Before your finger presses down, stop and consider. Haunted by his recent memories and the need to recollect them, he wrote If This Is a Man. Levi composed his narrative with the simplicity of someone who has balanced his memories according to the trials he has gone through.
Yet, his act of witnessing succeeds in being the act a human being and of a literary person at the same time. There is no book in the world about these same tragic experiences that has such artistic value as this book that is being published by De Silva. This established a camaraderie and friendship between the two authors that lasted a lifetime. Levi did translations and text revisions. He read drafts of manuscripts and gave editorial opinions. His collaboration continued until , when Boringhieri started a publishing house under his own name.
In , Levi sought again to interest Einaudi in republishing the book. An exhibition on the deportation held at Palazzo Madama in Turin, had raised great interest among young people. It was to appear in the moderately-priced series called Piccola Biblioteca Scientifico-letteraria. Its publication was put off until He wrote one chapter a month, first working from the notes he made at the time of his homecoming.
He had written the first two chapters some time in and , almost as a continuation of his writing of If This is a Man. Levi wrote methodically in the evenings, on the weekends, and on vacations. He did not take one hour of work time away from his job. His life was neatly divided into three parts — his family, the factory, and his writing.
In the French and German translations were published, but Levi complained about the poor quality of the French translation. While writing The Truce , Levi began writing short stories which were later published as Storie naturali. He tried to test the reactions of his readers by publishing them in various periodicals and newspapers. So, it seemed to me that a certain type of science fiction could satisfy the desire to express myself that I was still feeling and could be adapted as a kind of modern allegory.
In any case, most of my stories in Storie Naturali were written before the publication of The Truce. Those science-fiction ones, or, better, biological-fantasy ones, always attract me. Your fantastic mechanism that takes off from a genetic-scientific piece of data has a power of intellectual and even poetic evocation, just like the genetic and morphological meanderings of Jean Rostand.
Your sense of humor and your aplomb save you very well from the danger that someone usually runs into who uses the shapes of literature for intellectual experiments of this type. Certain of your discoveries are of the first order, like that of the Assyriologist who deciphers the mosaic of the trichinosis worms. And, really, one would say that writing about centaurs is impossible today, but you have managed to avoid an Anatole-Francian-Walt-Disneyesque pastiche.
Maybe I like your stories mostly because they presume that there is a common civilization that is noticeably different than that presumed by so much of Italian literature. Not only had they done such an excellent job, but for me it was a real revelation. The authors of the script, far off in time and space, and whose experience was very different from my own, had brought out of the book everything I had enclosed within it, and something more.
Levi offered RAI, the national broadcasting company an Italian version of the radio play, different from the Canadian one. The jacket featured a Marc Chagall drawing of a man who seemed to take off in flight over a house. In interviews Levi spoke about his ambitions for the future. These were published in the newspaper Il Giorno and elsewhere.
In , Levi returned to Auschwitz for a memorial ceremony. There was too much hustle-and-bustle, little reflection, everything put right in order, and a lot of official speeches. In , Levi collected his stories into a book entitled Storie naturali under the pen name Damiano Malabaila. Some had been published in newspapers. Some of the stories were adapted for theater and TV. Francesco Cassata, Science Fiction? Lezione Primo Levi, Einaudi I entered the world of writing, unthinkably, with two books on concentration camps. It is not up to me to judge their worth, but they doubtlessly were serious books dedicated to a serious public.
In , he took several business trips to the Soviet Union:. This phenomenon made me curious. Those men sat in the cafeteria with me, elbow to elbow. They represented an enormous technical and human patrimony, but they were destined to remain anonymous because nobody has ever written about them… Maybe The Wrench originated right there in Togliattigrad. The Vietnam War ends. Cattabiani, Sergio Luzzatto, I have five or six blues at my disposal… I mean to say that I have had in my hands materials that are not of current use, with properties outside the ordinary, that have served to amplify my language precisely in a technical sense.
Thus I have at my disposal an inventory of raw materials, of tesserae for writing, somewhat larger than that possessed by someone who does not have a technical background. It was a selection of authors that had especially influenced his cultural education or for whom he felt affinity. I accepted it as a bloodless experiment, rather as one submits to a battery of tests because it is agreeable to experiment and to observe the effects.
I have read a great deal because I came from a family for whom reading was an innocent and traditional vice, a gratifying habit, a mental exercise, an obligatory and compulsive way of killing time, and a sort of fairy wand bestowing wisdom. The curious diagram that opens The Search for Roots , consists of two points linked together by four different elliptical paths. But by what injustice is Job oppressed that he wants to understand why he suffers and contends with God from the very beginning? He knows that those who keep the commandments of the Lord will be blessed, while the guilty will receive in return sorrow upon sorrow.
He knows that through suffering, God eradicates evil and guides the sinner to the path of goodness. Suffering purifies. Job knows all this and also knows that he is innocent, and he expresses it with force. A country created from nothing, like the earth, the earth par excellence, where one rises to build it and be built.
Microcosm and utopia. He wrote: Israel, each day less holy and more militaristic, is acquiring the behavior of other countries in the Middle East, their radicalism, their distrust in negotiations.
I would like to be different from all other countries, but precisely because of this, I feel anguish and shame for its enterprise. But this is not a reason that Diaspora Jews can put to Begin. There are other, more important objections… There are two, one moral and the other political. The moral objection is the following: not even a war justifies the bloody arrogance shown by Begin and his men. The political objection is just as clear-cut: Israel is rapidly heading towards total isolation.
It is a terrible, previously unheard-of fact […]. We must do a number of things. Realize exactly what is going on. Suppress our own impulse towards an emotional solidarity with Israel, so that we can think through coldly the errors of the present Israeli ruling class. Remove this ruling class. Not that they had spotless records, but who does? According to Genesis, the first humans had only one language: this made them so ambitious and so dexterous that they set about building a tower that reached as high as the sky.
God was offended at their audacity, and he punished them in a subtle manner: not with a thunderbolt but by confounding their speech, which made it impossible for them to continue their blasphemous work. She is a female devil. Many things are told about her but the most important is that she was the first woman created. When he tried to tame her, she rebelled and became a devil. It is something like the feeling I feel for a person who is dear to me and who suffers and asks you for a kind of help that you cannot give him. I do not believe too much in the laughter than Brod talks about.
Or, [you feel like a character] transformed into an insect that is awkward and burdening, unseen by all, desperately alone, obtuse, unable to communicate and to think, by then able only to suffer. We can feel attracted even by somebody who is very different from us exactly because he is different. If it were not like this, writers, readers, and translators would be stratified into rigid castes, like the Indian castes.
There would be no connections across fields nor crossover fecundations. Everybody would read only the writers who are their blood relatives. The world would be or would appear less varied and new ideas would no longer be born. Now, I love and admire Kafka because he writes in a way that is totally closed off from me. In my writing, in good or in bad, knowingly or not, I have always tended to pass over from the dark to the light.
It seems to me that [author Luigi] Pirandello said this. This is like a filter-pump, which sucks in dirty water and expels decanted water, maybe even sterile water. Kafka treads down the path the opposite way. He endlessly unravels the hallucinations that come out of incredibly deep faults in the earth and never filters them.
The reader feels them gurgle with germs and spores. They are pregnant with meanings that scald.