In this article, Felicia Kornbluh profiles activism and litigation by the civil rights movement that centered directly on food and indirectly on access to income with which to provide food for families. It builds upon the evidence of these efforts to restore to the history of civil rights pivotal battles over political economy, that is, the nexus between government action and the material and nutritional fortunes of citizens. It draws upon a virtually unused set of grassroots-level documents that chronicle civil rights law in action—outside of federal courts and in local communities. Civil rights battles here were welfare rights battles, in the senses of helping individuals get and maintain public aid and of pressing at the limits of the welfare system to raise questions about the distribution of wealth throughout the society.

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