The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980

The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980

The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980

The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980

Excerpt

On a blistering Las Vegas day in 1972, a desolate, dangerous corner of the city’s black West Side came to life. Sweating, skinny teens carried load after load of garbage out of an abandoned hotel while their mothers, arms laden with cleaning supplies, set to work making the long-abandoned interior habitable again. Over the next few months, poor African American women and men armed with hammers and saws and carrying two-by-fours and rolls of wallpaper transformed a crumbling shell dating to the days of segregation into a thriving community and social service center.

Long an eyesore, a symbol of the flight of capital and of the government’s lack of interest in the poor, the old Cove Hotel would soon become home to one of the nation’s most successful free pediatric clinics, a medical and nutrition center for pregnant and nursing mothers, free breakfast and lunch programs, community anticrime projects, a food stamp distribution office, a day care center, parenting courses, a community newspaper, and a public swimming pool. All of these programs were funded at least in part by government antipoverty dollars and were run by the poor themselves. The women who created the Operation Life center soon opened their neighborhood’s first library and performance center. They mounted voter registration drives; attended county, state, and national political party conventions; and ran electoral candidates who called this desperately poor neighborhood home. A sign hanging over the doorway to the clinic summed up this local movement’s efforts and ethos: “In the Poverty Community, Of the Poverty Community, For the Poverty Community.”

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