The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign

The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign

The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign

The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign

Synopsis

In The Last Crusade, Gerald McKnight examines the Poor People's Campaign, the last large-scale demonstration of civil rights-era America, & the systematic efforts of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover & his executive officers to subvert King's ambitious effort to force the federal government to live up to its promises of a Great Society. The book also looks at King's last days as he helped Memphis sanitation workers in their labor-cum-civil rights struggle with a recalcitrant & racist city government. Although there is no persuasive evidence that the FBI & the Memphis police conspired to assassinate King, McKnight marshals evidence to show that neither agency was blameless. Contents: Introduction. King, Vietnam, & the Transformation of the Civil Rights Movement. The Road to Washington Goes Through Memphis. Memphis: Days of Rage, Days of Sorrow. "The Poor People Are Coming! The Poor People Are Coming!" Resurrection City-Shantytown Among the Cherry Trees. Conclusion.

Excerpt

On February 11, 1968, the eve of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, several hundred black sanitation workers proclaimed by a show of hands that selfliberation was still a hope that could stir action. The following day the city of Memphis, Tennessee, was hit with a garbage strike. What started as a "wild cat" job action soon escalated into a racial confrontation, then into a compelling civil rights struggle of national importance, culminating in an assassination triggering a storm of racial fury that stunned white America. For one dark moment this southern river city served as a microcosm of the domestic forces in racial conflict during this traumatic decade.

The 1968 Memphis sanitation strike attracted little national attention until local blacks persuaded Dr. King to enlist his moral support on the side of the striking garbage workers. At the time, neither King nor the supporters of black democracy in Memphis (or the nation at large, for that matter) were aware of the FBI's active involvement in this local labor dispute. Weeks before King agreed to come to Memphis, FBI Director Hoover had approved a domestic surveillance program against the strikers and their allies in the black community. For King, the cry of the powerless and oppressed brought him to Memphis. For Hoover, Memphis became another front in the FBI's stepped-up campaign to contain the rising tide of black militancy and another opportunity to carry forward the bureau's secret war against the black civil rights leader.

From the outset, the FBI characterized the dispute as a "racial matter" with potential internal security ramifications. Armed with the assertion that the nation's security was endangered, the FBI began a massive political intelligence operation that covered nearly every aspect of the Memphis black community's organizational life associated with the strike. Unhampered by respect for the rights of labor, the First Amendment, or a citizen's right to privacy, the FBI intruded into lawful political activities without any indication that specific crimes in violation of the federal law . . .

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