Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s

By Simon Hall | Go to book overview

Introduction

In February 1966, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was in Miami, training for his title defense against Ernie “the Octopus” Terrell. One afternoon a television reporter sought All’s reaction to the news that the Louisville Draft Board had upgraded his draft status from 1-Y to 1-A, thereby making him eligible for immediate induction into the United States Army. All’s retort, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong,” helped define an era. Fourteen months later Ali refused induction, explaining “I am not going ten thousand miles from here to help murder and kill and burn another poor people simply to help continue the domination of white America.”1 All’s response to the war in Vietnam seemed to many to epitomize a new militancy within Black America. The October 1966 platform of the Black Panther Party demanded that all African Americans be exempted from military service—“Black people should not be forced to fight … to defend a racist government that does not protect us.” The Panthers refused to “fight and kill other people of color who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government in America.”2 Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) attacked the war too. Speaking at one antiwar march, Carmichael defined the draft as “white people sending black people to make war on yellow people to defend land they stole from red people.”3

It was not just black militants who were critical of America’s actions in Vietnam. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the nation’s most important and most respected civil rights leader, also condemned the war in the strongest possible way. In the spring of 1967, King bitterly denounced the “madness of Vietnam” and called on his government to take the initiative in halting the conflict.4 Indeed, by the time that the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973, every major civil rights leader had spoken out against the war.

The years between 1960 and 1972 saw the emergence of two of the most significant social movements in American history—the African American freedom struggle and the movement to end the war in

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Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Organizing Tradition 13
  • Chapter 2 - Black Power 39
  • Chapter 3 - Black Moderates 80
  • Chapter 4 - Racial Tensions 105
  • Chapter 5 - Radicalism and Respectability 141
  • Chapter 6 - New Coalitions, Old Problems 167
  • Conclusion 187
  • Notes 195
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 255
  • Acknowledgments 263
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