Winner of the 2007 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award of the Organization of American Historians
Synopses & Reviews
"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 sympathizedin private though not in public (at least before the mid-1960s)with more left-wing critiques of American society. He also establishes that economic demands were more central to King's evolving agenda than we have previously thought. (Journalists, he shows, largely ignored King's more radical pronouncements on economic injustice.)" Chicago Tribune
"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.
"With this brilliantly executed study, Thomas Jackson gives us back the real King, who dreamed of radical change peacefully secured. From Civil Rights to Human Rights is a profoundly important contribution to modern American history—and a painful reminder of just how far we are from the Promised Land." Kevin Boyle, Ohio State University, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age
"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, requiring massive political mobilization on behalf of economic as well as civil rights. 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--from setbacks, frustrations, and unresolved dilemmas, but also from the enduring dream of political and economic democracy." Alice O'Connor, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History
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, he 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.
About the Author
Thomas F. Jackson is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.