Historically, the goal of the poor--along with everyone else-- has been to improve their status in society. In concert with middle- and high-income people, they have created national and local movements to further this goal. The 1960s were distinguished by the birth or expansion of several such movements--among them the struggle for human and civil rights. Presumably, people receiving public assistance were active in many of these struggles, but they did not typically identify themselves as welfare recipients. It is likely that these women and men were ashamed of their situation, and so their participation went unrecorded. However, this posture changed between 1963 and 1973, when people receiving public assistance acknowledged their low economic status and established the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), with members throughout the United States, Canada, and Sweden.
In New York City, the Brooklyn Welfare Action Council (B-WAC)1 was the largest and most important of the many protest groups that emerged in the metropolis during this turbulent period. A vehicle for improving the quality of life for its members, B-WAC was successful in some ways and at least effective in others. This is a study of the B-WAC organization, strategy, and membership. Furthermore, it documents and