Racial Equity and Diversity Section

Impact of the Civil Rights
Movement on Human Services
Discussion Leader:
Samuel Chambers, Jr., MPA
Sr. Vice President for Disaster Response Operations
History 101
• Civil Rights/Human Rights and Dignity are tied together
in history and culture.
– From the beginning, challenges have existed in terms of both civil
and human rights
– Many have struggled to define groups as superior and inferior,
resulting in differential systems of treatment, claims to equality, and
– Some conflicts have led to
• Legal challenges
• Denial of privilege and opportunity
• Warfare
• Death
• Human services programs in America have also
experienced “highs and lows” through time.
– Definitions of who is most “entitled” and who consumes more have
changed and been challenged over time.
– For whom were the first national human services programs
– Which ethnic groups are most represented on welfare rolls? Is
there an explanation?
– Does access to education and employment play a role?
– Does the Church, politics, and the media matter?
Evolution of national human
services programs
• The history of public welfare in the United States has
been one of continuing change and growth. Prior to the
1900’s local governments shared with private charitable
organizations major responsibility for public assistance,
or as it was often termed “public relief.” As the nation’s
economy became more industrial and the population
more concentrated in urban areas, the need for public
relief grew beyond the means, and sometimes the
willingness of local public and private authorities to
provide needed assistance
The Social Welfare History Project

• Thus, the stage is set for understanding some of the challenges and
struggles we have experienced.
Since 1932
• 1935 – Passage of the Social Security Act
• 1950 – Aid to the Disabled was added to the SSA
• 1965 – Title XIX (MA) was added to the SSA
- Food Stamp Program was created
• 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act
(Welfare Reform) was signed into law.
Civil Rights progress
• Slow and unending
– Civil Rights Act of 1875
– CRA of 1875 later struck down in 1883
– 1896 – Plessy v Ferguson
– 1954 – Brown v Board of Education
– 1955-56 – Montgomery bus boycotts
– 1964 – Civil Rights Act
• Note, some of these events occurred at the same time
that social welfare programs gained attention and
• 1964/65 was a great time!
– Civil Rights Act of 1964
– Great Society Programs under President Lyndon B.
• This point in history saw the first real intersection
between these two processes.

What has been our experience since then???
Our collective and contorted
• Human Services programs starting in 1935 were not
created for minorities.
– After WWII, primary focus was on widows and orphans
– SSA of 1935, and its provision of assistance to the blind and aged,
did nothing to provide equality of services.
– Not until the mid-1960’s when the National Welfare Rights
Organization was formed did minorities rights become a focal point
of access to welfare benefits.
• Why was this so? Why did the situation change in the
mid-1960’s when African American women took on such
a prominent role in welfare rights advocacy?
The answer is….
• The presence of large numbers of minorities as
beneficiaries of welfare programs resulted from
– Migration of large numbers of minorities to the north, east and
western parts of the country, in search of
• Jobs
• Better housing
• Better education
• Respect and equal opportunity
• The welfare rights advocacy phenomenon resulted from
the rise of unions in the industrialized cities.
• At the same time, the passage of the Civil Rights Act
empowered African American women, who headed
many of the households receiving welfare benefits to
assume a leadership role.
Welfare today
• Welfare stereotypes prevail across the country even
• Much of this is spawned by the media, by politicians,
and by the ill-informed populace acting on images
passed down through the generations.

But, what does the data say?
Welfare demographics
• Welfare statistics (1/1/2014)
– # of Americans on welfare 12,800,000
– # of Americans on Food Stamps 46,700,000
– # of Americans on unemployment compensation 5,600,000
• Welfare demographics
– % of recipients who are white 38.8%
– % of recipients who are black 39.8%
– % of Americans who are Hispanic 15.7%
– % of recipients who are Asian 2.4%
– % of recipients who are Other 3.3%
• Other statistics
– # of States where welfare pays more than a $8/hr job 39
– # of States where welfare pays more than a $12/hr job 6
– # of States where welfare pays more than the average
salary of a U.S. teacher 8

(Source: HHS/Dept. of Commerce, CATO Institute)
Selected poverty data
• People in poverty (2011 – 2012)
– White 12.8% 12.7%
– White, not Hispanic 9.8% 9.7%
– Black 27.6% 27.2%
– Asian 12.3% 11.7%
– Hispanic 25.3% 25.6%
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey)
• Poverty and hunger
– 14.5% of U.S. Households struggle to put enough food on the table
– more than 48 million Americans, including 15.9 million children –
live in these households.
– More than one in five children is at risk of hunger. Among African
American and Latinos, nearly one in three children is at risk of
(Source: “Hunger and Poverty Facts”, Bread for the World)
Effect of poverty and race
• It is inescapable that there is a relationship between
poverty and race – between the efforts in this country to
achieve racial equity and economic security.
• Poverty, while not directly caused by racial inequality, is
aggravated by it, resulting in disproportionate numbers
of minorities suffering the effects of poverty. The data
establishes that fact clearly.
• Reversing the effects of poverty, and reducing the
numbers of people in poverty, requires that we continue
to increase our efforts to assure racial equity for all
Americans, regardless of race.
• Access to employment, housing, health care, nutrition,
and justice must be assured to all. This will reduce
reliance on public support and allow for personal
responsibility on levels not previously experienced.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal, that they are endowed,
by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is
neither slave nor free, there is no male and
female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28