Down and Out, on the Road: The Homeless in American History / Edition 1

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Covering the entire period from the colonial era to the late twentieth century, this book is the first scholarly history of the homeless in America. Drawing on sources that include records of charitable organizations, sociological studies, and numerous memoirs of formerly homeless persons, Kusmer demonstrates that the homeless have been a significant presence on the American scene for over two hundred years. He probes the history of homelessness from a variety of angles, showing why people become homeless; how charities and public authorities dealt with this social problem; and the diverse ways in which different class, ethnic, and racial groups perceived and responded to homelessness. Kusmer demonstrates that, despite the common perception of the homeless as a deviant group, they have always had much in common with the average American.
Focusing on the millions who suffered downward mobility, Down and Out, On the Road provides a unique view of the evolution of American society and raises disturbing questions about the repeated failure to face and solve the problem of homelessness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A compelling historical account of the most vulnerable segment of America's poor."—CHOICE

"A unique contribution to the story of American welfare and the vast network of voluntary associations."—Business History Review

"An informative monograph on the lives of beggars and tramps in the United States, mainly between 1865 and 1935, to which brief introductory and concluding chapters have been added to make the work seem more timely"—Ohio History

"Kusmer's book could serve as a valuable tool to advocates, policy makers, and the public grappling for solutions to solve the homeless epidemic."—Journal of Children and Poverty

"It is a pleasure to announce that the homeless, who have so little else, have at least gained in Kenneth L. Kusmer's excellent Down and out, on the Road, a history of their own."—Barbara Ehrenreich, The New York Times Book Review

"one of the most fascinating books I've ever read"—Martin F. Nolan, The San Francisco Examiner

"Resisting abstraction at every turn, Down and Out on the Road focuses squarely on "the homeless in American History," drawing upon a broad range of sources to uncover the lived experiences and social impact of people variously termed vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, hoboes, bums, and street people....Kusmer proves himself an expert in tying its changes to larger shifts in the culture, economy, and society of the United States over three centuries."—The Journal of American History

Anyone who thinks homelessness only hit record levels over the past two decades needs to read this book. History does repeat itself when it comes to homelessness and how society responds to it. Today's "war on homelessness and welfare recipients" has historical parallels.—Michael Stoops, National Coalition for the Homeless

"Homelessness is not only a contemporary phenomenon in the U.S. according to this well-researched and engrossing history.... Kusmer is at his best when describing the specifics of people's lives...drawing upon sociological studies, reports from charitable institutions, the novels of William Dean Howells and Stephen Crane, and the music of blues writer and singer Ida Cox, Kusmer has produced a book that is highly engaging, emotionally absorbing, and historically consequential."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195160963
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 889,005
  • Lexile: 1500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth L. Kusmer is Professor of History at Temple University.

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