To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America

To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America

To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America

To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America

Synopsis

When Governor Terry Sanford established the North Carolina Fund in 1963, he saw it as a way to provide a better life for the "tens of thousands whose family income is so low that daily subsistence is always in doubt." Illustrated with evocative photographs by Billy Barnes, To Right These Wrongs offers a lively account of this pioneering effort in America's War on Poverty.

Robert Korstad and James Leloudis describe how the Fund's initial successes grew out of its reliance on private philanthropy and federal dollars and its commitment to the democratic mobilization of the poor. Both were calculated tactics designed to outflank conservative state lawmakers and entrenched local interests that nourished Jim Crow, perpetuated one-party politics, and protected an economy built on cheap labor. By late 1968, when the Fund closed its doors, a resurgent politics of race had gained the advantage, led by a Republican Party that had reorganized itself around opposition to civil rights and aid to the poor.

The North Carolina Fund came up short in its battle against poverty, but its story continues to be a source of inspiration and instruction for new generations of Americans.

Excerpt

This book is about the politics of race and poverty in America. It tells the story of the North Carolina Fund, a pioneer effort to improve the lives of the “neglected and forgotten” poor in a nation that celebrated itself as an affluent society. Governor Terry Sanford created the Fund in 1963, at a time when the United States stood at a crossroads. A decade of civil rights activism had challenged the country to fulfill its promise of equality and opportunity. Not since the Civil War and Reconstruction had reformers raised such fundamental questions about the political and social foundations of the republic. But it was by no means clear how Americans would answer. Alabama governor George C. Wallace spoke for one possibility. In his inaugural address, delivered on the steps of the Alabama statehouse in January 1963, he pledged to defend “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Those words made Wallace the point man for a politics of fear and resentment, which eventually spread to communities across the land.

In North Carolina, Governor Terry Sanford offered a dramatic alternative. On July 18, six months after Wallace’s swearing-in, Sanford announced the establishment of the North Carolina Fund, a unique five-year effort to stamp out the twin scourges of discrimination and economic deprivation. “In North Carolina there remain tens of thousands whose family income is so low that daily subsistence is always in doubt,” he explained. “There are tens of thousands who go to bed hungry…. There are tens of thousands whose dreams will die.” That anguish cried out for “institutional, political, economic, and social change designed to bring about a functioning, democratic society.” This, the governor proclaimed, “is what the North Carolina Fund is all about.” With those words, Sanford positioned the private nonprofit corporation and the state as the “advance guard” in what would soon become a national, federally funded war on poverty.

The Fund was overseen by a board of directors that included civic leaders—men and women, black and white—from across the state. It began its work with $2.5 million in financial backing from two local philanthropies, the Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundations, both of which were tied to influential banking and tobacco interests. The Ford Foundation, which had been investing in projects of social reconstruction in urban America, gave an additional $7 million. After passage of the Economic Op-

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