The Great Society and the War on Poverty

An Economic Legacy in Essays and Documents

by John R. Burch Jr.


Several current issues in society—such as racial tensions and raising the minimum wage—were issues during President Johnson's administration during the Great Society period.

Print Flyer
Cover image for The Great Society and the War on Poverty

June 2017


Pages 435
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Economics/History
  Politics, Law, and Government/History

An ideal resource for students as well as general readers, this book comprehensively examines the Great Society era and identifies the effects of its legacy to the present day.

With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson inherited from the Kennedy administration many of the pieces of what became the War on Poverty. In stark contrast to today, Johnson was aided by a U.S. Congress that was among the most productive in the history of the United States. Despite the accomplishments of the Great Society programs, they failed to accomplish their ultimate goal of eradicating poverty. Consequently, some 50 years after the Great Society and the War on Poverty, many of the issues that Johnson's administration and Congress dealt with then are in front of legislators today, such as an increase in the minimum wage and the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor.

This reference book provides a historical perspective on the issues of today by looking to the Great Society period; identifies how the War on Poverty continues to impact the United States, both positively and negatively; and examines how the Nixon and Reagan administrations served to dismantle Johnson's achievements. This single-volume work also presents primary documents that enable readers to examine key historical sources directly. Included among these documents are The Council of Economic Advisers Economic Report of 1964; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; John F. Kennedy's Remarks Upon Signing the Economic Opportunity Act; The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (a.k.a. the Moynihan Report); and the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (a.k.a. the Kerner Report).


  • Documents the evolution of key issues addressed in the Great Society—such as civil rights, immigration, and the chasm between rich and poor—that are still challenging us today
  • Shows how young people were able to influence massive political and social change—in a time without the benefit of instant communication and social media
  • Includes dozens of primary documents, including Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 State of the Union Address; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Lyndon B. Johnson's "Stepping Up the War on Poverty" address; "Where Do We Go From Here?," delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at the SCLC Convention Atlanta, GA; and remarks given by President Obama at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library in April 2014
  • Includes content related to the themes of the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies and the Common Core requirements for primary documents and critical thinking exercises
Author Info

John R. Burch Jr., PhD, is dean of library services at Campbellsville University. He earned his doctorate in U.S. history at the University of Kentucky. He coedited The Encyclopedia of Water Politics and Policy in the United States, which was named a 2012 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice. He has also authored or coauthored four other titles. Burch has contributed to numerous encyclopedias, including Encyclopedia of United States Indian Policy and Law and Encyclopedia of the Politics of the American West and the ABC-CLIO publications Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History; Encyclopedia of the U.S. Government and the Environment: History, Policy, and Politics; and Imperialism and Expansionism in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection.



"As a good entry point for researchers, this reference would be a useful addition to high school and undergraduate libraries."Booklist

"This reference work will be a useful and highly accessible point of entry for those studying U.S. history, public policy, social justice, and advocacy over the nation's past 50 years. Summing Up: Highly recommended. High school through upper-level undergraduates; general readers."Choice

"A one-stop volume for learning about the history and legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society, programs aimed at eradicating poverty and injustice. . . . VERDICT Useful for academic or larger public libraries that want to update their print resources on the subject. Students doing in-depth reports or projects, as well as general users, will find this work helpful."Library Journal

Look Inside

Other Titles of Interest

American Economic History cover imageThe President as Economist cover imageTwo Nations, Indivisible cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips