North Caroliniana Society Book Award 2010

When Governor Terry Sanford established the North Carolina Fund in 1963, he saw it as a way to provide a better life for the “tens of thousands whose family income is so low that daily subsistence is always in doubt.”

Illustrated with evocative photographs by Billy Barnes, To Right These Wrongs offers an incisive account of this pioneering effort in America’s War on Poverty.

Robert Korstad and James Leloudis describe how the Fund’s initial successes grew out of its reliance on private philanthropy and federal dollars and its commitment to the democratic mobilization of the poor. Both were tactics calculated to outflank conservative state lawmakers and entrenched local interests that nourished Jim Crow, perpetuated one-party politics, and protected an economy built on cheap labor. The North Carolina Fund came up short in its battle against poverty, but its story continues to be a source of inspiration and instruction for new generations of Americans.

A DVD of the award-winning documentary Change Comes Knocking: The Story of the North Carolina Fund is included with To Right These Wrongs. The film brings the story of the War on Poverty alive with archival photographs, period news footage, and first-hand testimony from men and women who were on the front lines.

Published by The University of North Carolina Press

Praise for the Book

“With its masterfully contextualized analysis of the rise and fall of the North Carolina Fund, To Right These Wrongs rescues the tattered reputation of the War on Poverty’s community action component. In place of ideology, the authors provide empirical accounts of how federal dollars were spent; how new programs impacted both social problems and individual lives; what happened to them; and why. One of the book’s many virtues is its understanding of poverty as an issue of power, or, more accurately, of power’s maldistribution, and one of its signal achievements is the way in which it draws the links between the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and labor union activity. The story told in this beautifully executed book is important for the present as well as the past.”

–  Michael B. Katz, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

“This book is a must read if you want to learn more about the cruelties of poverty while at the same time witnessing the struggle of people fighting against it. The North Carolina Fund made a difference in the lives of people who deserved much more from the richest country in the world. This book challenges the assumptions many have about poor people’s apathy and indifference to their own conditions.”

–  Howard Fuller, North Carolina Fund Community Organizer and Founding Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning, Marquette University

“These pages vividly record a superior achievement of the Terry Sanford years. This story, so well written by Korstad and Leloudis, is essential reading for understanding North Carolina’s crucial time of transition and change.”

–  William C. Friday, President Emeritus, University of North Carolina

To Right These Wrongs is an important history confined to a small space. This is a major intervention into the relationship of the state and welfare, a historical reclamation of policy aspects of poverty programs, and a sensitive rendering from top to bottom of the political economy of poverty.”

–  Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University