Category Archives: Bibliography

Web pages documenting the histories of legal aid and defender organizations in the United States (permalinks)

Please check out NEJL’s collection of permalinks to web pages documenting the histories of legal aid and defender organizations in the United States.

Please contact the NEJL archivist if you suggest to add additional pages to this collection.



A new collection of essays on the rise of the carceral state in the U.S.

The latest special issue of the Journal of American History (vol. 102, issue 1, 2015) is on Historians and the Carceral State. Most of the essays focus on the expansion of the carceral state in the United States during the twentieth century: how undocumented Latino immigrants have become the largest population in the federal prison system to U.S. policing abroad; how African American women have been over-incarcerated for protecting themselves against rape and domestic violence; on the role of white suburban drug use and the crack epidemic in the “war on drugs;” how prison building drove the political economy of the sun belt, and on the impact of prisoner and antipolice brutality activism on gay rights and the Chicano and African American freedom movements. The volume also includes an essay by Elizabeth Hinton: A War within Our Own Boundaries”: Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Rise of the Carceral State.

All essays are available online, at no charge, from the JAH website.

2014 Report: The Right To Legal Aid

2014 Report: The Right To Legal Aid: How British Columbia’s Legal Aid System Fails to Meet International Human Rights Obligations. Report by Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, 2014.

Note: The NEJL is collecting bibliographic references and links to this and other recent publications on civil legal aid and indigent defense, which can be accessed online for no charge.

Report: 25 million Americans in working families turn to food banks–new Oxfam America-Feeding America report

Oxfam America and Feeding America released a new study,
“From Paycheck to Pantry: Hunger in Working America,” which reports that more than half of America’s 46 million users of food pantries and other charitable food programs are workers or from working families; all told, 25 million Americans in households where at least one member works or has recently worked turned to a charitable feeding program in 2013 because their wages and incomes were so low.

Featured resource: The Extension of Legal Services to the Poor Conference in 1964

HEW_Nov1964_Proceedings_NEJLFifty years ago, in November 1964, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Office of Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development sponsored the Conference: The Extension of Legal Services to the Poor in Washington, D.C. The conference reflected the growing national concern about developing more effective ways of meeting the legal needs of people experiencing poverty, and brought together social workers, lawyers, educators, politicians, and social scientists.

Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, U.S. Attorney General, gave a passionate luncheon address that reflected Katzenbach’s commitment to developing and supporting legal anti-poverty programs as part of the War on Poverty: “It is justice, rather than charity, which calls on us to see to it that the law and the lawyer are involved in the effort to reverse that life sentence (of poverty).”  Referring to the 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright decision, Katzenbach highlighted the need to extend the concerns on the rights of poor people beyond criminal law: “Hopelessness and poverty do not observe neat jurisdictional lines between civil and criminal.” Problems of poor people, he continied, “constitute the new era of public concern, indeed the new area of law, with which we are dealing with at this conference. To be sure these are not new problems – it is our appreciation of them that is new…There must be new techniques, new services, and new forms of interprofessional cooperation to match our new interest…There are signs, too, that a new breed of lawyers is emerging, dedicated to using the law as an instrument of orderly and constructive social change…Communities planning comprehensive antipoverty programs can be expected to include similar provision for the extension of legal services to the poor. And the Office of Economic Opportunity has indicated a willingness to support such programs, both as part of a community action program and also as a separate research and demonstration project.”

“The poor need advocates, not simply to present their side of the story, but to give them hope, to demonstrate that the law is not an enemy, but a guardian, and that public officials are not their masters, but their servants.”

The conference had five panels: The Legal Needs of the Poor; New Legal Services for Economically Depressed Metropolitan Areas; Forewarning the Low-Income Community of the Most Common Legal Difficulties; The Lawyer and the Social Worker; and The Role of Law Schools in the Extension of Legal Services.

Elizabeth Wickenden was among the speakers on the panel: The Legal Needs of the Poor. In her paper, The Indigent and Welfare Administration, Wickenden appealed to use the law to achieve a more equitable application of welfare policy and voiced the hope that the decision in the Gideon case with respect to the right to counsel in criminal cases would be applicable to all civil actions, and to all complaints against the governmental bureaucracy. On the same panel, David Caplovitz from the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University, spoke about consumer problems for the poor, especially legal problems resulting from missed payments and exploitation through merchants. The panel: New Legal Services for Economically Depressed Metropolitan Areas featured papers highlighting the development of and need for neighborhood legal services programs in New York City, Boston, and New Haven. The third panel: Forewarning the Low-Income Community of the Most Common Legal Difficulties featured papers on educational programs for low-income clients, including a panel on Citizen Advice Bureaus in Britain, and a paper by Ed Sparer – the Director of the Legal Services Unit of Mobilization for Youth — on Education on New York’s Lower East Side, in which he discussed the most effective programs to provide legal information to clients, such as the distribution of wallet sized cards stating one’s rights under arrest. The panel: The Lawyer and the Social Worker highlighted the need for better understanding and closer cooperation between lawyers and social workers. The last panel, The Role of Law Schools in the Extension of Legal Services, featured papers by Robert Spangenberg, who spoke about the legal services programs developed at the Boston University School of Law; Kenneth Pye, Dean of Georgetown Law Center, who discussed the success of the Prettyman intern program, initiated in 1959, and Professor Charles Are of New York University, who spoke about the need to develop law school curricula devoted to legal problems of the poor, and about the efforts at NYU Law school to systematically address poverty from a legal and non-legal perspective.

The conference proceedings are available at the National Equal Justice Library (please contact the Project Archivist for scans), and can also be downloaded from the Hathi Trust Digital Library (for those who have access to the database.)

Katharina Hering

Reflections on a Bibliography, Fifty Years Later

By Elisa Minoff

“Selected Readings in Law and Poverty” is a remarkable document. bellow_titleGary Bellow compiled the bibliography with the help of several law students in 1964, for a course he was teaching at Georgetown Law called Poverty and the Administration of Justice. At the time, Bellow was a young public interest lawyer working at the Legal Aid Agency of the District of Columbia. Bellow would later work at two other organizations funded by the War on Poverty—the United Planning Organization (a community action agency in DC) and California Rural Legal Assistance (a pioneering legal services organization serving California’s farm workers)—before leaving legal practice for academia, where he helped found modern clinical legal education.

In 32 well-organized and quickly-digestible pages, the bibliography transports us back in time to those heady early days of the War on Poverty. It reminds us that what we have come to think of as the intellectual influences on the War on Poverty amount to only a sliver of the popular and scholarly writing on poverty at the time. And it gives us a taste of the ambition of practitioners like Bellow who were considering how to use the law in the fight against poverty.


Ben Bagdikian. In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Part I of the Bibliography, “The Elements of Poverty,” is most interesting to the general historian and reader. In it, Bellow and his fellow contributors list some of the most influential works on poverty from the early 1960s. Notably, the list does not stop at Michael Harrington’s The Other America or Ben Bagdikian’s In the Midst of Plenty. Bellow wanted to stimulate “law students in becoming more concerned with the legal problems of the poor and the urban condition,” as he wrote in the introduction. Accordingly, the selections tend to focus on the underlying causes of poverty, especially urban poverty, and the structural conditions that account for its persistence. Subsections on politics, race, class structure, and psychology include works by Saul Alinksy, Seymour Martin Lipset, Herbert Gans, Oscar Lewis, Ralph Ellison and Charles E. Silberman. These books were not low-circulation editions read by a handful of academics and poverty experts, but trade (and in some cases mass-market) paperbacks that became part of the larger public discourse about contemporary social problems.


Oscar Handlin. The Newcomers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

As a historian of migration and social welfare, I was particularly excited to see Oscar Handlin’s The Newcomers listed among the “General Considerations.” Handlin was a prolific historian of immigration who had written the pulitzer-prize winning The Uprooted in 1951. In the late 1950s, he had turned to the study of contemporary internal migration. In The Newcomers, Handlin chronicles the experiences of Puerto Ricans and African Americans who had recently moved to New York City. When Handlin published The Newcomers, popular commentators had begun to blame migrants for the struggles of America’s inner cities, and social workers had come to believe that helping migrants “adjust” or “assimilate” to urban life was a prerequisite to solving urban poverty. Migration, in other words, was very much a part of the debate about poverty in the years leading up to Lyndon Johnson’s declaration, and Bellow’s bibliography manages to capture this too.

Considering the trends in anti-poverty research over the last several decades, the subsection on “The Psychology of Poverty” is particularly interesting. Psychology is yet another subject that has been largely missing from discussions of poverty, but was very much a part of the debates in the 1960s. Historian Alice O’Connor describes the “behavioral sciences revolution” that infused poverty research in the 1950s and 60s.  During these years, the National Institute of Mental Health funded a number of influential studies and conferences on poverty. Bellows himself admitted to being especially concerned with the psychology of the poor. As he observed in a fascinating interview in 1964: “It seems to me that poverty is something more than just economic deprivation. It seems to be characterized by a psychological dimension, a feeling of hopelessness, of powerlessness, of an inability among the poor as we call them to belong to any institution or feel a part of our society.” (Bellows and others involved in the legal services movement, believed that the law could help the poor combat this feeling of powerlessness bring them into the fold of American society.) In later years, anti-poverty activists became disenchanted with psychology as a subject that could help explain poverty’s persistence and gravity. After decades of marginalization, however, psychology is once again a part of the discussion, as researchers have started to unveil the long-lasting repercussions of phenomena like poverty-induced toxic stress in early childhood.


Oscar Lewis. The Children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family. New York: Random House, 1964.

(As a footnote on the subject of psychology and poverty, Bellow includes Oscar Lewis’ book, The Children of Sanchez, in the list of works on psychology. In this book, Lewis develops his idea of a culture of poverty—another concept that has recently enjoyed something of a rebirth).

What is most notable about Part II of the bibliography, “The Legal Problems of the Poor,” is how broadly Bellow conceived these problems. Among the legal problems of the poor highlighted in the bibliography are housing issues, such as urban renewal and relocation, zoning, and landlord tenant disputes; consumer protection issues, such as loan and debt problems and purchasing on credit; criminal justice issues, such as arrest and the right to counsel; as well as, to randomly select just a few: juvenile delinquency, unemployment compensation, and discrimination. Part II, which primarily consists of law review articles, includes much more technical works than Part I, which is populated with books by academics, journalists, and activists written for a general audience. But the technicality does not suggest narrow or small mindedness. Poverty law, a la Bellow, addressed any and all issues that arose in the everyday lives of America’s poor. It was far more than the law of public assistance benefits.

Bellow’s bibliography poses something of a challenge to scholars concerned with poverty today: to think broadly, and ambitiously, about the problems of the poor, and to circulate our ideas widely so that they too may become part of the public discourse—fifty years after the War on Poverty.bibliography_quote1

About the author: Elisa Minoff is a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014. She has  conceptualized and developed the collaborative War on Poverty bibliography, which is available as a google doc.

More information about the bibliography can be found on NEJL’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website.

Other related resources:

Selected Readings in Law and Poverty,” prepared by Gary Bellow for a seminar at Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and the Administration of Justice taught in 1964-1965.The bibliography was also published as part of the conference proceedings of the National Conference on Law and Poverty in June of 1965. A digitized version of the proceedings is available online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library:

Interview with Gary Bellow on the Role of the Lawyer and the Problem of Poverty by Richard D. Capparella, District Roundtable, WWDC, May 9, 1964. Gary Bellow collection, NEJL. Reformatted vinyl recording is available as a streaming mp3 file at:

NEJL hosts collaborative War on Poverty Bibliography

As one of the contributions marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the National Equal Justice Library has launched a collaborative bibliography on the War on Poverty. The initiative grew out of a conference on Poverty Law: Cases, Teaching, and Scholarship at the Washington College of Law in October 2013. Elisa Minoff, a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014, has conceptualized and developed the initial bibliography. The bibliography is designed to be an ongoing collaborative effort, and Minoff encourages others to contribute additional entries, and well as annotations to existing and new entries.

The idea was to highlight some of the most enduring scholarship on the War on Poverty and to present the most recent work being done by social scientists, legal scholars, and historians on the subject. For context, Minoff included a list of useful sources on social welfare in America before and after the War on Poverty, as well as some recent analyses of the legacies of the War on Poverty. We are planning to add a section with literature covering the most significant poverty law cases in the next weeks.

The document is available as a google doc, which is also linked from the NEJl’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website:

The bibliography can also be downloaded as a pdf document:

Periodic updates of the bibliography will be posted on the NEJL War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website as pdf documents.

If you would like to contribute citations and commentary, please e-mail Elisa at elisa.minoff [at] Elisa can either give you permission to edit the document directly or add your suggested citations herself.