Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City
Hardback: Harvard UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith
Too often, we learn history as an impersonal set of dates, geographic locations, and the names of the major players. While those academic facts are important, our collective past can potentially be much more alive to us in the present and, therefore, more helpful as we seek solutions to the social ills that affect us all. Historical writing is most effective when it is able present people and scenarios from the past in a way that humanizes those who were there and shows us how decisions made “at the top” actually changed the lives of ordinary people.
Michael Woodsworth, in his book Battle for Bed-Stuy:The Long War on Poverty in New York City, makes a credible attempt to look at one community through a period of decades. He analyzes Bedford-Stuyvesant’s (“Bed-Stuy”) efforts to combat poverty and remain a safe, vibrant, appealing place for people to live. Battle for Bed-Stuy is especially useful for learning how President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty legislation and its programs played out in a real community populated by people committed to improving their surroundings and their lives.