Keeping the Dream Alive: A History of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the Nineteen-Eighties

Keeping the Dream Alive: A History of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the Nineteen-Eighties

Keeping the Dream Alive: A History of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the Nineteen-Eighties

Keeping the Dream Alive: A History of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from King to the Nineteen-Eighties

Synopsis

This first comprehensive history of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference demonstrates the fallacy of closing the record on the nonviolent movement with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. After exploring the campaigns, educational programs, experiments in nonviolent social relations, and impact of SCLC in the King years, this study continues the coverage through the 1970s into the middle 1980s. Basing his account on both the King records and, for the first time, the extensive recent materials of SCLC, the author examines the continuity of the organization and its dream in the contemporary world. The result is a spirited account valuable to both the general reader and the student of black Americans and nonviolence. Both the faith and the strategy of the nonviolent dream are shown as vital elements of SCLC in its three decades of activism.

Excerpt

To many Americans, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is more of a memory than a viable contemporary movement. As the organizational arm of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s nonviolent civil rights movement, it frequently received headline media coverage and had high public visibility from 1957 until his assassination in 1968. After that, the national press often referred to SCLC as "Dr. King's old organization," and began treating its conventions and campaigns in brief stories usually far from the front page. Occasionally, as with the 1968 Poor People's Campaign in Washington a few weeks after King's death, the major papers gave it first-page attention, but often with more emphasis upon divisions in the ranks of its leadership than upon the content of the program. Gone were the days when network correspondents and newspaper journalists eagerly followed SCLC's activities across the cities of the South at the height of the civil rights movement.

For more than a decade SCLC and King were inseparable. He was its principal founder and its president, as well as its philosophical spokesman and bridge to white America. Even after his break with the Johnson administration over the Vietnam War in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. remained the most quotable and most famous American black leader. It was inevitable that his death dealt a serious blow to the organization he led and to an already declining public commitment to the black movement. "No man, dead, living, or unborn," stated his friend and successor Ralph David Abernathy, "could have filled the shoes of Dr. King."

Undoubtedly, Abernathy was correct. The peculiar qualities and circumstances that had made Dr. King a historical force . . .

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