Watch Bill Moyers’ July 9, 2013 Frontline documentary about two ordinary, hard-working families in Milwaukee.

Watch Video HereSince 1992, Bill Moyers has been following the story of these two middle-class families — one black, one white — as they battle to keep from sliding into poverty. He first met the Stanleys and Neumanns when they were featured in his 1990 documentary Minimum Wages: The New Economy. The families were revisited in 1995 for Living on the Edge, and again in 2000 for Surviving the Good Times.

Bill Moyers revisited his reports on the Stanleys and Neumanns and talked about issues raised with authors Barbara Miner and Barbara Garson on the July 5 episode of Moyers & Company, “Surviving the New American Economy.”


What’s Happened to the Two American Families?


It’s been two months since FRONTLINE left the Neumanns and the Stanleys in Milwaukee. We caught up with Terry Neumann and Keith Stanley to ask how they and their families are doing, why they chose to participate in the film, and what they hope viewers take away from their story. Below are excerpts from those conversations.


Why did your family decide to participate in the film?

TERRY: It wasn’t so much to get into my personal life. I did it because I wanted [viewers] to know how devastating it was to families trying to feed their kids and clothe them for school when you don’t have those high-paying jobs.

My kids didn’t want to [participate in Two American Families]. They remembered how they were when they were younger, with the cameras all around them. I said: “You’re older now and you have a say. … You have a chance to say something. Or someone might offer you a job.”

I’m hoping that somebody may see this and see the type of person that I am, and want to hire me. …

When I did the first one there were so many people in the same boat. People’s whole lives were destroyed. I could say I’ve been through this a couple of times up and down, finding bad jobs, good jobs. I said, “I’m not going to give up,” and I [want to] give someone else hope to say, “It’s going to get better.” … I hope it’s going to help people. I really do.



Why did your family decide to participate in the film?

KEITH: At the beginning, I think it was maybe a little bit of, “This is interesting. Let’s see what happens if we open our lives up and let people know what’s happening.”

My parents believe that if you work hard, you can scrape out some kind of living, and if you have principles and values in your life, at some point you can make it out OK. They wanted to let people know that we’re working hard. Sharing that story was really good for them.

[For this film], they said, “We’re fine sharing our story, letting people know where we’ve landed.” This past decade has been difficult, and they don’t mind sharing the story about how they tried to overcome these obstacles. It’s been a difficult ride, and they still keep pushing forward.

What do you want people to take away from your story?

KEITH: People should know we’re survivors. It’s been difficult, it’s been challenging. But we all go through that, trying to figure out our life. Things are not as easy as they were a generation ago. So the realities of my dad when he got out of high school and my brothers is totally different. Some things have changed as far as America, and what we thought, but we’re not going to give up. … We want to let people to know that we can keep going despite these ups and downs that we go through in life.


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