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From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice (Politics & Culture in Modern America) [Paperback]

Thomas F. Jackson

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1 Aug 2009 Politics & Culture in Modern America
From Civil Rights to Human Rights Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice Thomas F. Jackson Winner of the 2007 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award of the Organization of American Historians "From Civil Rights to Human Rights should reinforce King's credentials as one, and perhaps the wisest, of the radical voices of the 1960s."--Dissent "[The book] is the first to produce a sustained analysis of the origins and development of King's radical economic analysis and the politics it mandated. . . . Jackson's book rips away the false curtain of moderation and reveals the substance of a rare leader who gave his life in the pursuit of global human rights."--Sociological Inquiry "A more sensitive treatment of King's legacy and its implications for advancing economic democracy does not exist."--The Historian "A notable contribution to social, cultural, economic, and African American studies."--Choice Martin Luther King, Jr., is widely celebrated as an American civil rights hero. Yet King's nonviolent opposition to racism, militarism, and economic injustice had deeper roots and more radical implications than is commonly appreciated, Thomas F. Jackson argues in this searching reinterpretation of King's public ministry. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, King was influenced by and in turn reshaped the political cultures of the black freedom movement and democratic left. His vision of unfettered human rights drew on the diverse tenets of the African American social gospel, socialism, left-New Deal liberalism, Gandhian philosophy, and Popular Front internationalism. King's early leadership reached beyond southern desegregation and voting rights. As the freedom movement of the 1950s and early 1960s confronted poverty and economic reprisals, King championed trade union rights, equal job opportunities, metropolitan integration, and full employment. When the civil rights and antipoverty policies of the Johnson administration failed to deliver on the movement's goals of economic freedom for all, King demanded that the federal government guarantee jobs, income, and local power for poor people. When the Vietnam war stalled domestic liberalism, King called on the nation to abandon imperialism and become a global force for multiracial democracy and economic justice. Drawing widely on published and unpublished archival sources, Jackson explains the contexts and meanings of King's increasingly open call for "a radical redistribution of political and economic power" in American cities, the nation, and the world. The mid-1960s ghetto uprisings were in fact revolts against unemployment, powerlessness, police violence, and institutionalized racism, King argued. His final dream, a Poor People's March on Washington, aimed to mobilize Americans across racial and class lines to reverse a national cycle of urban conflict, political backlash, and policy retrenchment. King's vision of economic democracy and international human rights remains a powerful inspiration for those committed to ending racism and poverty in our time. Thomas F. Jackson is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Politics and Culture in Modern America 2006 | 472 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 13 illus. ISBN 978-0-8122-3969-0 | Cloth | $49.95t | £32.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-2089-6 | Paper | $24.95t | £16.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-0000-3 | Ebook | $24.95t | £16.50 World Rights | Biography, American History Short copy: From Civil Rights to Human Rights examines King's lifelong commitments to economic equality, racial justice, and international peace. Drawing upon broad research in published sources and unpublished manuscript collections, Jackson positions King within the social movements and momentous debates of his time.


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"Jackson exemplifies the best offerings of intellectual history."-Reviews in American History "Never before have King's social and political ideas been so thoroughly documented nor so persuasively explicated. Future generations of King scholars will owe Jackson a debt of gratitude for this monumental book of enduring value."-Clayborne Carson, Director, Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, Stanford University, Senior Editor, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. "Jackson makes a persuasive case that King was exposed to various radical critiques at an early stage, that he laced his speeches with moral indictments of inequality and praise for Scandinavian social democracies, and that he sympathized-in private though not in public (at least before the mid-1960s)-with more left-wing critiques of American society."-Chicago Tribune "In this impressive and original account, Jackson challenges us to confront what King and movement activists knew from lifelong experience: that poverty and racism are fundamentally problems of power... Equally compelling is Jackson's portrait of a radicalism grounded in the give and take of movement building and in the vast store of learning it entailed."-Alice O'Connor, author of Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History "An important contribution to modern American history-and a painful reminder of just how far we are from the Promised Land."-Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age "Jackson takes us through the progression of King's public life, including the iconic events-Montgomery, Albany, Birmingham, the Washington march, Selma, Memphis-closely analyzing the ideas, the people, and the conjunction of circumstances particularly influential at the time, as measured by exhaustive analysis of King's speeches, writings, and private conversations (courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation)."-Journal of American History "More than any other historian of the movement, Jackson takes the civil rights leader's ideas seriously...The book was written for academics, but it deserves a large audience... it should help to reshape our collective understanding not only of King and the civil rights movement, but of the movements for peace and racial and economic justice that preceded King and continue today."-Texas Observer "From Civil Rights to Human Rights should reinforce King's credentials as one, and perhaps the wisest, of the radical voices of the 1960s."-Dissent "[The book] is the first to produce a sustained analysis of the origins and development of King's radical economic analysis and the politics it mandated... Jackson's book rips away the false curtain of moderation and reveals the substance of a rare leader who gave his life in the pursuit of global human rights."-Sociological Inquiry "A more sensitive treatment of King's legacy and its implications for advancing economic democracy does not exist."-The Historian "A notable contribution to social, cultural, economic, and African American studies."-Choice

About the Author

Thomas F. Jackson is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

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Over the course of his public ministry, between the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956 and the Memphis sanitation workers' strike of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., wove together African American dreams of freedom with global dreams of political and economic e Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling new biography of King 8 Jan 2007
By ProfessionalParent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the most important and original book on Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to be published in years. Jackson offers a persuasive account that challenges the conventional wisdom about King and his goals. King was not just the apostle of nonviolence. He was not just someone who wanted everyone to get along. King was a radical--who saw that personal transformation was not enough. Jackson shows how King saw the black freedom struggle as one of power and economics. This book is beautifully written and deeply researched. It will be impossible to think about King in the same way ever again after reading Jackson's account.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review 11 Dec 2009
By historystudent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In his 2007 From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice, historian Thomas F. Jackson argues that "King was much more radical, earlier and more consistently, than he is credited for being" (p. 3) Jackson takes issue with historians' assertions that Vietnam and the social and political climate of the 1960s radicalized King in 1965. Instead, stressing family and educational influences among others, Jackson argues that King's radicalism grew from a family tradition of social gospel teachings. A sense of economic justice was inherent in King's critiques from very early on. King was already radical in 1956 and grew increasingly radical until his death in 1968. That this is not evidenced throughout all speeches, sermons and writings is a function of king's awareness of the success of red-baiting as a method of marginalizing and discrediting both people and movements and of his awareness of his audience. Jackson's extensive use of King's papers here really validates his argument. Jackson further argues that portraying King as a "civil rights" leader is too narrow and imprecise a label for King (p. 85).
Throughout From Civil Rights to Human Rights, Jackson emphasizes themes consistent with a longer more nuanced view of the civil rights movement. In fact, that is one of the biggest strengths of Jackson's analysis. He adds layered dimensions to historiographical interpretations of King and the movements with which he was involved. Jackson weaves his arguments into a narrative of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, while displaying that even that terminology, "civil rights" was not enough without economic rights and human rights. In so doing, Jackson shows the importance of economic justice, organized labor, religion/ministers, the impact of the media attention (or lack thereof), gender issues, anti-communism, class tensions, intra-movement struggles (including local vs. national), the issue of violence/nonviolence/armed resistance and the influence of internationalism on King and his rhetoric.
Through his thorough research, Jackson uses draft versions of speeches and King's writings (among many other sources) to display that King's radicalism did not appear in the last few years of his life. For example, Jackson uses King's 1958 Stride Toward Freedom manuscripts to show that King was more radical earlier than generally thought, and also to show that he moderated (or highlighted) that radicalism depending on his audience. Jackson displays this by pointing to particular sections that were cut from the manuscript before the work was published. Through his analysis of these draft versions and the published work, Jackson also displays King's awareness of red-baiting and the accommodations he made in order to avoid communist accusations. Radicalism was not a contrary idea to his calls for "self-help". Instead, Jackson shows that King was influenced by a familial and cultural tradition of resistance. This resistance, partially because of his family's ministerial roots, was rooted in the social gospel, which King built on. Further, King's later calls for Black "self-help" "was perfectly consistent with broad social and governmental `action programs'" (p. 3). In fact, King argued that much of the social problems occurring in ghetto communities were a direct result of systemic institutional racism and the stresses that placed on African Americans practically, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Jackson displays King's treatment of women in general and within the movement in particular shows King as a man rooted in patriarchal tradition, both in his home life and in his leadership and management style. While Jackson recognizes that King's economic platform, for example, was about jobs for black men, and displayed little interest in single women's welfare issues, Jackson does portray him as increasingly open to gender issues.
Jackson pays particular attention to King's social democratic ideals and in his belief in the ultimate need for an alliance with labor and in economic justice and its inherent linkage with racial injustices, tragically culminating in his assassination while involved in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike. Both Michael Honey in Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign and Jackson in Civil Rights to Human Rights, stress the important linkage between economic justice and racial justice and King's recognition of this.
Jackson lends the themes discussed here careful, nuanced interpretation and analysis. For example, he shows that relegating the issues regarding violence within the movement to a simple violence versus nonviolence debate was too simple and ignored the complex issues at play (p. 106). Jackson adds significant depth and nuance to the historiographical record in regard to the themes of economic justice and its linkage with racial justice, organized labor, religion/ministers, the impact of the media attention (or lack thereof), gender issues, anti-communism, class tensions, intra-movement struggles (including local vs. national), the issue of violence/nonviolence/armed resistance and the influence of internationalism on King and his rhetoric.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice 5 Jan 2008
By Clarence L. Murchison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Dr. Jackson has presented a fresh view of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his place within the civil rights movement. First of all his picture of King as a searching, evolving activist adds flesh to a complex, often enigmatic historical figure. It gives him texture, shows him as continuously evolving his ideology. He is never at rest, always seeking, always questioning himself, always questioning others surrounding him, always growing, right up to the minute of his untimely death. The other really important aspect of FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS is the view of King removed from the strictly American civil rights movement. Dr. Jackson places him firmly within the international human rights movement. This speaks to both his growth as a man and philosopher as well as his growing awareness that American civil rights and human rights worldwide are inextricably linked. This book makes King believable as both human being and icon.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding resource, but with a grain of salt 5 May 2013
By Boyd Bosma - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jackson's review is extremely well documented and complete, an excellent source on events during the King years. Jackson worked with MLK's official biographer, and expands on the biography very well. My only criticism is that Jackson begins with a polemic assumption, that King was a socialist, and at a number of points goes out of his way to ascribe doctrinaire and ideological motives to King's actions, particularly as his attention turned to the issue of poverty. This detracts from what otherwise is an outstanding and well detailed review.
I knew Dr King and was close to the family for a number of years. His attention was focused on his movement and what would work to bring justice to people who needed improvement in the conditions they lived under. It's true that many of his ideas coincided with goals of the democratic socialists, but that was also true with regard to some of the goals of the American communists, a point that was badly abused by J Edgar Hoover in his campaign to discredit King and the movement. The fact that goals may have overlapped did not make King either a socialist or a communist. Ascribing political motivation to problems that clearly needed to be resolved does not help in understanding the broad scope of the civil rights movement and its ideals.
Most of the major civil rights groups were tolerant of political differences among their supporters, but for the most part political ideology did not govern their strategies. Just as there were differences in the motivations and strategies of the opponents of civil rights, there were differences among the advocates for civil rights. In my experience, there were essentially two major divisions among the civil rights groups in the South. The first included most of the major organizations that focused directly on the goals and ideas of freedom, and included MLK and most of his followers. The second group consisted of a larger number of relatively smaller groups with articulable political goals that sometimes exceeded their commitments to the larger goals of civil rights and civil liberties for all. Ascribing doctrinaire political ideology to MLK does a disservice to his life and achievements.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice 18 Jun 2013
By NOTWORTHIT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Needed this book for a college class. It came very quickly and was exactly what I needed to PASS the course. Great price. It is filled with great information.
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