Book by WSU Tri-Cities History Professor Examines Dynamics of Race, Cultural Movements in Los Angeles
Robert Bauman, WSU Tri-Cities College of Liberal Arts, Associate Professor of History, 509-372-7249, email@example.com
Melissa O’Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities Marketing Manager, 509-372-7319, cell 509-727-3094, firstname.lastname@example.org
RICHLAND, Wash. – Some 40 years since its controversial introduction into American politics and society, the legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty remains evident in communities across the nation, having evolved in ways that would have surprised both its supporters and detractors at the time.
In a new book examining the impact of Johnson’s signature domestic program on the communities of Los Angeles, Robert Bauman, associate professor of history at Washington State University Tri-Cities, examines how that president’s grand vision of a program to eliminate poverty in America also shaped the dynamics of racial conflict in the U.S. and spurred the growth of African-American and Mexican-American community action and cultural awareness.
“Coming on the heels of the election of a former community organizer as President of the United States, an exploration of the efforts of black and Chicano community activists through the War on Poverty in the 1960s and 1970s seems particularly relevant,” Bauman said of the book’s release.
In “Race and the War on Poverty, From Watts to East L.A.,” released this month by the Oklahoma University Press, Bauman describes the African-American and Mexican-American community organizations in Los Angeles that emerged to implement War on Poverty programs. He goes on to examine how those who organized the programs subsequently applied democratic vision and political savvy to community action, and how the resulting African-American, Chicano, and feminist movements in turn shaped the contours of the War on Poverty’s goals, programs, and cultural identity.
Bauman’s book explores how the War on Poverty and the Watts revolt of 1965 interwove to effect local movements in East Los Angeles in ways that empowered the participants economically, culturally, and politically. Although heated battles over race and other cultural issues sometimes derailed the programs, he describes how such organizations produced lasting positive effects within the communities they touched.
The author details how the Watts riots accelerated the creation of a black community-controlled agency, the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, which served as a model to a burgeoning Chicano movement and helped inspire Mexican Americans to create The East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) and the Chicana Service Action Center.
Despite Nixon-era budget cuts and the nation’s turn toward conservatism, Bauman writes that the War on Poverty continues to be fought today as these agencies embrace the changing politics, economics, and demographics of Los Angeles. “Race and the War on Poverty” shows how the struggle to end poverty evolved in ways that would have surprised its planners, supporters, and detractors—and that what began as a grand vision at the national level continues to thrive on the streets of the community.
WSU Tri-Cities is located along the Columbia River in Richland, Wash. Established in 1989 with upper division and graduate programs, WSU Tri-Cities offers 17 baccalaureate, 12 master's, and six doctoral degree programs. The campus added freshman and sophomore courses in fall 2007 to become a full four-year public university, extending the WSU land-grant mission of providing affordable, accessible higher education. For more information, call 509-372-7250 or visit www.tricity.wsu.edu.