Addressing Inner City Issues – SDS and the War on Poverty

ERAP Newsletter Cover for July 23, 1965.

“The Port Huron Statement touched on multiple fronts, including the urban crisis and the problem of poverty. The SDS manifesto criticized ‘a national celebration of economic prosperity while poverty and deprivation remain an unbreakable way of life for millions in the affluent society.’ Automation replaced workers with machines and facilitated the increase in unemployment. For SDS, achieving American democracy and expanding the civil rights movement to the North required a battle against poverty. … In these ways, the Port Huron Statement anticipated SDS’s formation of the Economic Research and Action Program, otherwise known as ERAP.  In his memoir, Tom Hayden wrote that ERAP ‘was a product of intense thinking about the intertwined issues of race and poverty and how to bring them to center stage in a nation consumed by the Cold War.’ SDS launched the ERAP initiative in the fall of 1963, four months before President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national ‘War on Poverty’ in his State of the Union address. In May 1964, Johnson introduced his vision of a liberal ‘Great Society’ in a commencement address at the University of Michigan. … The leaders of SDS set forth the philosophy behind the ERAP mission in the 1963 document ‘America and the New Era.’ This document argued that American intellectuals should focus on forming solutions to problems ‘with regards to poverty, unemployment, social services, public planning, education, cultural life, and housing.’ It highlighted how the Civil Rights Movement did not adequately address the links between poverty and racial discrimination. SDS planned to confront the issue head-on with a comprehensive program working with the poor to combat the oppression of poverty. Several years before the anti-war movement, ERAP represented participatory democracy in action. Later in 1963, in a pamphlet called ‘A Interracial Movement of the Poor,’ SDS members Tom Hayden and Carl Wittman refined how the change proposed in ‘America and the New Era’ should be confronted. Carl Wittman worked with the NCAAP in Chester, Pennsylvania. There, black residents and students held demonstrations for fair employment and better housing. After his experiences in Chester, Wittman blamed the failure of the demonstrations on the exclusion of poor whites within the movement. One of the main points of the document explain that ‘demands which are specifically racial, do not achieve very much.’ …”
Anti-Vietnam War Movement – University of Michigan
SDS and ERAP in Cleveland in the 1960s
A Theater for the Poor – Alan Wald
[PDF] 1964-10 SDS Bulletin Vol-3 No-2
[PDF] A Movement of Many Voices…

“An Interracial Movement of the Poor?” made by Tom Hayden and Carl Wittman in 1963.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Civil Rights Mov., Lyn. Johnson, Poverty, SDS, Street theater, Tom Hayden and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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