On June 4, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson delivered his commencement address at Howard University — one of the most famous speeches of his presidency. Given shortly after he sent the Voting Rights Act to Congress, and almost a year after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it laid out a vision of his administration's civil rights goals. But most people now many remember it for one thing: its emphasis on what then-Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan termed "the breakdown of the Negro family structure."
The speech, drafted by Moynihan, was heavily based on his study "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," better known as the Moynihan Report. It is a source of tremendous controversy to this day, with many arguing that it offers little more than an implicitly racist "blame the victim" critique, and many others arguing that it offers a clear-eyed and prescient account of a pernicious social ill.
James T. Patterson, the Ford Foundation professor of history emeritus at Brown University, has written about the study in his book "Freedom Is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America’s Struggle Over Black Family Life from LBJ to Obama," which is being released next week.