This year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s call on Americans to build a “great society” and his sponsorship of the largest social and economic reform agenda since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Central to Johnson’s sweeping Great Society domestic agenda were the programs of his War on Poverty initiative. The Economic Opportunity Act, designed to eliminate poverty and expand educational opportunities, included the Job Corps to provide job training and education for at-risk young people ages 16 to 21.
As the preamble to the act declared, it was “the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training, the opportunity to work, and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity.”2 At the time he signed the law, much attention was focused on urban poverty, even though rural citizens made up 43 percent of the poor. Twenty-nine percent of Americans lived in rural areas and more than half of rural poverty was found in the South. Three out of four rural poor were white, but poverty was proportionately greater among African Americans and other nonwhite rural residents. Although sections of the Equal Opportunity Act have since been rescinded and many programs from Johnson’s War on Poverty dismantled or reduced in scope, Job Corps proved its value and continues today.
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Source: Forest History Today, Spring/Fall 2014
Volume 20, Nos. 1 and 2
Alicia D. Bennett