The Public Interest

Still an American dilemma

R. J. Herrnstein

Winter 1990

IN THE mid-1980s a group of social scientists, organized as the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, received a commission from the federally chartered National Academy of Sciences and its satellite organizations, the National Research Council and the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Its task was to marshal descriptive data on the changing position of blacks in American society since i940” and to “explore the consequences, anticipated and unanticipated, of public and private initiatives to ameliorate the position of blacks in America.” The Committees research was supported by the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the National Research Council (which itself receives the support of numerous public and private granting agencies). The research has culminated in a 600-page final report, published in 1989 as A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society and edited by the Committees chairman, Robin Williams, and the study’s director, Gerald David Jaynes. The book was written, its editors note, “45 years after Gunnar Myrdal in An American Dilemma challenged Americans to bring their practices into line with their ideals.”

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