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The Other America Then and Now

Michael Harrington '47When Michael Harrington '47 published "The Other America" in 1962, he inspired a generation of political leaders, activists and students to address poverty as a moral imperative. Fifty years later, his legacy lives on. In March 2012, the Rev. Michael C. McFarland S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at Holy Cross organized a conference to revisit his ideas and take on some of the defining issues of poverty today.

The two day conference, The Other America Then and Now, convened renowned scholars and activists — including Harrington's biographer Maurice Isserman, Michael Kazin, Peter Dreier, Annette Lareau, Bruce Western and a keynote address by Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson. The first day of the conference centered on Harrington's "The Other America," the context in which it was written, its cultural influence and its role in the development of Great Society programs such as the Economic Opportunity Act, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps in the 1960s. The second day tackled the types of concerns Harrington would need to consider if he were writing the book now — urban poverty among children and adolescents, the impact of exploding rates of mass incarceration and the marginalization of minority men, and child farm labor.

Video recordings of their talks are available free below.

The conference attracted the attention of alumni/ae, area educators and social service organizers, who joined Holy Cross students and staff for the sessions. Two dozen Brandeis University students and staff were able to attend the conference with the support of the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice and Jules Bernstein '57, a friend of Harrington's.

DAY 1

Discussion centers on Michael Harrington's The Other America, the context in which it was written, and the influence it may have had on the development of Great Society social reforms introduced in the 1960s.

• The Impact of Michael Harrington's The Other America, 1962-2012
Maurice Isserman

Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History at Hamilton College and author of "The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Harrington, ‘The Option for the Poor,' and ‘Men and Women for Others'
David J. O'Brien

Professor Emeritus of History and Loyola Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Michael Harrington and the Political Economy of Postwar America
Thomas J. Sugrue
David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The Origins of the Urban Crisis"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Michael Harrington and the American World of Letters
Alan Wolfe
Professor of Political Science and Director of The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Michael Harrington and the Fate of Social Democracy in America
Michael Kazin
Professor of History at Georgetown University and co-editor of "Dissent"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• What would Michael Harrington make of Occupy?
Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College and author of the forthcoming "The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame"
Followed by responses and a question and answer period with the day's conference speakers.
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

DAY 2

The focus shifts to the "Other America" today. Speakers help define this invisible demographic, the current outlook on social policy and advocacy, and specific issues among America's very poor - incarceration, urban poverty among children and adolescents, the marginalization of minority men, and rural poverty and child farm labor.

• Unequal Childhoods: A survey of youth across race and class
Annette Lareau
Stanley I. Sheerr Term Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class, and Family Life"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Boys to Men: Life trajectories of marginalized Puerto Rican males at the turn of the new millennium
Timothy Black
Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Social Research at the University of Hartford and author of "When a Heart Turns Rock Solid: The Lives of Three Puerto Rican Brothers on and off the Streets"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• The dramatic rise of incarceration and its effect on the poor
Bruce Western
Professor of Sociology and Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the author of "Punishment and Inequality in America"
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

Responses and a discussion led by Dave McMahon, co-executive director of Dismas House of Massachusetts, Inc. in Worcester, with Arthur Rosenberg, an ex-prisoner who is now director of operations at Dismas house, and Bruce Western.
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Child Farm Labor
Zama Coursen-Neff
, deputy director of the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch and author of "Fields of Peril: Child Labor in US Agriculture," a Human Rights Watch report
Norma Flores López
, director of the Children in the Fields Campaign, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

• Toward a Holistic Study of Urban Poverty: Why Both Social Structure and Culture Matter

William Julius WilsonWilliam Julius Wilson is Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University and author of "The Declining Significance of Race; The Truly Disadvantaged"; and "When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor." Past President of the American Sociological Association, Wilson has received 44 honorary degrees, was named a MacArthur Prize Fellow from 1987-1992, and was awarded the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States.
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

 

READ MORE
In this anniversary year, a number of commemorative pieces and op-eds have weighed in on Harrington's legacy. What follows is just a sampling.

» 50 Years Later: Poverty and The Other America
Maurice Isserman
Dissent, Winter 2012

» Poverty in America 50 Years After Michael Harrington's The Other America
Peter Dreier
Huffington Post, March 25, 2012

» Re-examining Poverty in America
David Duhalde-Wine
The Brandeis Hoot, March 30, 2012

» Maurice Isserman on Michael Harrington, "The Other American"
History for the Future, WRCT-Pittsburgh 88.3 fm, April 30, 2012

» Thomas Landy on The Other America Then and Now
America Magazine Podcast, May 7, 2012

» 'The Other America' takes the veil off American poverty
By Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2012

» The American Prospect publishes a special report in the July-August 2012 issue, taking stock of America's progress in fighting poverty on the 50th anniversary of Michael Harrington's "The Other America."