Each of our cities is now the seat of nearly all the problems of American life: poverty and race hatred, interrupted education and stunted lives, and other ills of the new urban nation—congestion and the filth, danger, and purposelessness which afflict all but the very rich and the very lucky. To speak of the urban condition, therefore, is to speak of the condition of American life. To improve the cities means to improve the life of the American people…

The city is…a place where men should be able to live in dignity and security and harmony, where the great achievements of modern civilization and the ageless pleasures afforded by natural beauty should be available to all.

If this is what we want…we will need more than poverty programs, housing programs, and employment programs, although we will need all of these. We will need an outpouring of imagination, ingenuity, discipline, and hard work unmatched since the first adventurers set out to conquer the wilderness…

One great problem is sheer growth—growth which crowds people into slums, thrusts suburbs out over the countryside, burdens to the breaking point all our old ways of thought and action, our system of transport and water supply and education, and our means of raising money to finance these vital services. A second is destruction of the physical environment, stripping people of contact with sun and fresh air, clean rivers, grass and trees—condemning them to a life among stone and concrete, neon lights and an endless flow of automobiles. This happens not only in the central city but in the very suburbs where people once fled to find nature…

A third is the increasing difficulty of transportation, adding concealed, unpaid hours to the workweek; removing men from social and cultural amenities that are the heart of the city; sending destructive swarms of automobiles across the city, leaving behind them a band of concrete and a poisoned atmosphere…

A fourth destructive force is the concentrated poverty and racial tension of the urban ghetto, a problem so vast that the barest recital of its symptoms is profoundly shocking…

Fifth is both cause and consequence of all the rest. It is the destruction of the sense, and often the fact, of community, of humanity dialogue, the thousand invisible strands of common experience and assistance in the first place. Too many of the projects, as a result, become jungles—places of despair and danger for their residents and for the cities they were designed to save…

No single program, no attempted solution or any single element of the problem, can be the answer.

In recent years, education has come to be regarded as the answer…But past efforts to improve life conditions simply by the expenditure of more money on education have not been notably successful…

Education has failed to motivate many of our young people because of what they could see around them: the sharply restricted opportunities open to the people of the ghetto, whatever their education…

We know the importance of strong families to development; we know that financial security is important for family stability and that there is strength in the father’s earning power. But in dealing with Negro families, we have too often penalized them for staying together. As Richard Cloward has said: “Men for whom there are no jobs will nevertheless mate like other men, but they are not so likely to marry. Our society has preferred to deal with the resulting female-headed families not by putting the men to work but by placing the unwed mothers and children on public welfare—substituting check-writing machines for male wage-earners. By this means we have robbed men of manhood, women of husbands, and children of fathers. To create a stable monogamous family, we need to provide men (especially Negro men) with the opportunity to be men, and that involves enabling them to perform occupationally.”

And here we come to an aspect of our cities’ problems almost untouched by federal actions: the unemployment crisis of the Negro ghetto…

The crisis in Negro unemployment, therefore, is significant for beyond its economic effects, devastating as those are. For it is both measure and cause of the extent to which the Negro lives apart…

Unemployment is having nothing to do, which means having nothing to do with the rest of us.

It is a shocking fact—but it is a face nonetheless—that …our…whole array of government computers, which threatens to compile on some reel of tape every bit of information ever recorded on the people in this room—this system nowhere records the names or faces or identities of a million Negro men.

Seventeen percent of Negro teenagers, 13 percent of men in the prime working age of the thirties, are uncounted in our unemployment statistics, our housing statistics, simply drifting about our cities, living without families, as if they were of no greater concern to our daily lives than so many sparrows or spent matches.

Some are “found” in later life, when they may settle down. Some reappear in our statistics only at death. Others remind us of their presence when we read of rising crime rates. And some, undoubtedly, became visible in the riots…I stress employment here for the following reasons:

First, it is the most direct and embarrassing—and therefore the most important—of our failures…

Second, employment is the only true long-run solution. Only if Negroes achieve full and equal employment will they be able to support themselves and their families, become active citizens and not passive objects of our action, become contributing members and not recipients of our charity…

Third, there are government programs which seem at least to have some promise of ameliorating, if not solving, some of the other problems of the Negro and the city. But no government program now operating gives any substantial promise of meeting the problem of Negro unemloyment in the ghetto…

[We] must attack these problems within a framework that coordinates action on the four central elements: employment, education, housing, and a sense of community.

This is not to say the other problems and programs are not important: questions of police relations, recreation, health and other services, and the thousands of other factors that make life bearable or a thing of joy. It is to say that these other questions can only be properly dealt with in concert with action on the major problems. A police force, for example, can exert every possible effort, and imagination, and will, to better relations with the community. But it still must enforce the law. And if the conditions of the ghetto produce stealing, for which people must be arrested, or nonpayment of rent, for which people must be evicted, even if they have no place to go, then the police will inevitably bear the brunt of the ghetto’s resentment at the conditions which the police, through no fault of their own, enforce…

To bring the people of the ghetto into full participation in the economy, which is the lifeblood of America, it will be necessary to create new institutions of initiative and action, responding directly to the needs and wishes of these people themselves. This program will require government assistance, just as nearly all Americans’ growth has depended on some government assistance and support. But it cannot and should not be owned or managed by government, by the rules and regulations of bureaucracy, hundreds of miles away, responding to a different constituency.

The measure of the success of this or any other program will be the extent to which it helps the ghetto to become a community—a functioning unit, its people acting together on matters of mutual concern, with the power and resources to affect the conditions of their own lives. Therefore the heart of the program, I believe, should be the creation of Community Development Corporations, which would carry out the work of construction, the hiring and training of workers, the provision of services, and encouragement of associated enterprises…

But a further and critical element in the structure, financial and otherwise, of these corporations should be the full and dominant participation by the residents of the community concerned…

At least for matters of immediate neighborhood concern, these Community Development Corporations might return us partway toward the ideals of community on a human scale, which is so easily lost in metropolis…

One purpose for which they must be an instrument, however, and one purpose which must be served by every aspect of the program I have proposed, or any other program, is to try to meet the increasing alienation of Negro youth…Among Negro youth we can sense, in their alienation, a frustration so terrible, an energy and determination so great, that it must find constructive outlet or result in unknowable danger for us all. This alienation will be reduced to reasonable proportations, in the end, only by bringing the Negro into his rightful place in this nation. But we must work to try and understand, to speak and touch across the gap, and not leave their voices of protest to echo unheard in the ghetto of our ignorance…

For all these programs, of course, there is a question of cost…

The financial question should be explored in this hearing, for it has the most direct and fundamental relevance to the problem of the city. Necessary as that exploration is, however, it should not be allowed to obscure the more fundamental question: Do the agencies of government have the will and determination and ability to form and carry out programs which do not fit on organization charts, which are tailored to no administrative convenience but the overriding need to get things done? If we lack this central ability, then vast new sums will not help us. The demonstration-cities proposal is a creative beginning, but it must be followed up by a demonstration of this critical ability to get things done, or the sums needed will not be forthcoming…

We do not only want to remedy the ills of the poor and oppressed—though that is a huge and necessary task—but to improve the quality of life for every citizen of the city, and in this way to advance and enrich American civilization itself.