Remembering What President Lyndon B. Johnson Said About The Breakdown Of The Black Family

Remembering What President Lyndon B. Johnson Said About The Breakdown Of The Black Family


Lyndon Johnson, Oval Office portrait, 1964, White House/Photo by Any Lane

In March 1965, the United States Department of Labor released a comprehensive report titled “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” This report, often referred to as the Moynihan Report after its author, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, aimed to explore the challenges faced by African-American families and communities. President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned this report as the nation was faced with civil rights struggles.

Johnson, known as LBJ, assumed office in 1963 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Many historians say Johnson’s presidency marked a significant shift in the nation’s trajectory, with groundbreaking “Great Society” legislation aimed at addressing civil rights, poverty, and social inequalities. While LBJ, a Texan Southern, is often celebrated for his efforts to end racial discrimination and inequality, his legacy is complex. His personal conduct and use of racial slurs, even as he championed civil rights, demonstrate the dichotomy of his character. Johnson’s policies and programs aimed to address racial discrimination, yet at the same time engaged in surveillance and wiretapping of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The “Negro Family” report read: “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 1964, the demand of Negro Americans for full recognition of their civil rights was finally met.”

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It continued, “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.”

It urged for changes, as Black Americans are expecting them.

“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,” the report read.

But it also pointed out the dissolution of the Black family being a major reason why Black Americans were not rising up America’s class ladder.

“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 report stated.

“Johnson even called for white America to take responsibility for its role in the breakdown of the Black family and fought to ensure Great Society programs were equitably implemented,” the Urban Institute reported. Despite this, Black people did not benefit as much as their white peers from the Great Society programs. There were strides.

During the 1960s, median Black family income rose 53 percent; Black employment in professional, technical, and clerical occupations doubled; and average Black educational attainment increased by four years. The proportion of Blacks below the poverty line fell from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968. The Black unemployment rate fell 34 percent,” Digital History reported.

Still, reparation were never offered and the racial wealth gap continued to grow. In the second quarter of 2023. Black families had about $986,000 less wealth, on average, compared with white families, while Hispanic families had about $992,000 less wealth, on average, than white families, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Lyndon Johnson, Oval Office portrait, 1964, White House/Photo by Any Lane: https://www.pexels.com/photo/positive-black-family-preparing-for-christmas-on-tree-farm-5727731/