A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

August 20, 1964: The Beginning of Community Action

Passage of the Economic Opportunity Act

August 20, 1964

The Beginning of Community Action

It is, therefore, the policy of the United States to eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this Nation

SEC 202. (a) The term "community action program" means a program—

(1) which mobilizes and utilizes resources, public or private, of any urban or rural, or combined urban and rural, geographical area (referred to in this part as a "community"), including but not limited to a State, metropolitan area, county, city, town, multicity unit, or multicounty unit in an attack on poverty;

(2) which provides services, assistance, and other activities of sufficient scope and size to give promise of progress toward elimination of poverty or a cause or causes of poverty through developing employment opportunities, improving human performance, motivation, and productivity, or bettering the conditions under which people live, learn, and work;

(3) which is developed, conducted, and administered with the maximum feasible participation of residents of the areas and members of the groups served; and

(4) which is conducted, administered, or coordinated by a public or private nonprofit agency (other than a political party), or a combination thereof.

Community Action was designed as a new locally-based approach to systematically address not only the conditions, but also the causes, of poverty.  Learn about the origins of Community Action that still apply in many ways 46 years later.

Community Action Arrives

President Johnson's 1964 War Against Poverty statement, creating the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and the nation-wide network of non-profit Community Action Agencies to combat the causes and conditions of poverty.
Produced for the Community Association of Pennsylvania’s 40th Anniversary

Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral HistoryMany CAA websites feature information on the early days of Community Action.  For example, here's how the Community Action Agency of Somerset County (PA) describes the Origin of Community Action.

Read Launching the War on Poverty: An Oral History by Michael L. Gillette

Fill out this form to be contacted about David Bradley's History of the War on Poverty Workshop.

Listen to the Presidential Recordings on the War on Poverty


Lyndon B Johnson - The Great Society from American Experience on PBS

Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent ShriverLearn About Sargent Shriver

Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver by Scott Stossel – Biography of the first OEO Director and visionary with ideas about the importance of community action.

Sargent Shriver: From Idealism to Institution – This is the documentary completed by 2009 National History Day Senior Individual Documentary Finalist, Nathan Rehr.  This documentary covers the life, political career, and generosity of Sargent Shriver, who ran as the Vice Presidential candidate with George McGovern.  His legacy of idealism lead to the founding of numerous institutions as a result of his socially conscience philanthropy.

So You Want to Change the World Now What?
A seminar at Rutgers University inspired by the figure and work of Sargent Shriver, the creator of Peace Corps, Community Action, Vista, Head Start, Federal Work Study, Special Olympics and other socially relevant programs.

Commentary on the War on Poverty

40th Anniversary of the War on Poverty
NPR's Madeleine Brand discusses the 40th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" with historian Robert Dallek.

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