The Lasting Legacy of “An American Dilemma”

Carnegie Corporation of New York



Case Study Sector


Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, generally viewed as one of the most important results of grantmaking by Carnegie Corporation of New York, played a major role in the story that led from an America, which after World War II still had a legal Jim Crow system in the South—along with a segregated army—to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was cited as the social scientific evidence justifying the Supreme Court’s decision that what had been deemed separate but equal education for black children was, in fact, detrimental to their development.

Published in 1944 (by Harper & Bros.; reprinted in 1996 by Transaction Publishers), An American Dilemma served to crystallize the emerging awareness that racial discrimination and legal segregation could not endure in the U.S. Its moral wake-up call for Americans to live up to the democratic ideals of the “American Creed” became a powerful justification that united the major groups responsible for the civil rights movement. It has been called one of the most important works of social science of the twentieth century. Never before had so comprehensive and wide-ranging a study of the state of black Americans and interracial relations been carried out.



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Nov 13

Join Professor Joel Fleishman and the President and CEO of Foundation for the Carolinas, Michael Marsicano - for the Foundation Impact Research Gro