From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice

By Thomas F. Jackson | Go to book overview

Epilogue

After the Poor People’s March, scores of activists who had worked to help King reconstruct his dream to address the needs of America’s and the world’s poor returned to their communities and continued their work in an increasingly conservative climate. Marian Wright Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund, fighting poverty and racism under a new banner. Jesse Jackson shepherded Operation Breadbasket and ran for president after forming the multiracial Rainbow Coalition. Ralph Abernathy marshaled SCLC support for striking Charleston hospital workers of Local 1199 the next year. Andrew Young became U.N. ambassador under President Jimmy Carter, placing human rights on America’s foreign policy agenda as it had not been before or has been since. Bayard Rustin advocated for Southeast Asian refugees during a time when most Americans would have preferred to forget them and the war that dislocated them. Michael Harrington wrote another book about poverty and helped form Democratic Socialists of America, sustaining the dream of a full-employment alternative to Reaganomics in the 1980s. Walter Fauntroy fashioned a legislative agenda for black America as the nonvoting representative of the District of Columbia to the Senate. Coretta Scott King worked tirelessly to define and preserve her husband’s legacy, involving herself in struggles for gender justice and international peace.


Crown of Contention: The King Legacy

The culture wars over King’s legacy began immediately after his assassination. The NWRO demanded that Congress pass a “living memorial” by repealing the 1967 public welfare amendments and guaranteeing jobs or income for every American family. Saks Fifth Avenue closed its doors for a day and printed excerpts from the “I Have a Dream” speech in the New York Times. White folks, setting aside their recent fear of King as a radical incendiary, froze King at a moment in 1963 as a moderate “civil rights” leader appealing to the nation’s highest ideals to integrate Negroes into the mainstream. A few recalled more radical visions. “After Gandhi’s death,” Harris Wofford wrote,

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From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Politics and Culture in Modern America ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Pilgrimage to Christian Socialism 25
  • Chapter 2 - The Least of These 51
  • Chapter 3 - Seed Time in the Winter of Reaction 75
  • Chapter 4 - The American Gandhi and Direct Action 98
  • Chapter 5 - The Dreams of the Masses 123
  • Chapter 6 - Jobs and Freedom 155
  • Chapter 7 - Malignant Kinship 188
  • Chapter 8 - The Secret Heart of America 218
  • Chapter 9 - The War on Poverty and the Democratic Socialist Dream 245
  • Chapter 10 - Egyptland 276
  • Chapter 11 - The World House 308
  • Chapter 12 - Power to Poor People 329
  • Epilogue 359
  • Notes 371
  • Bibliography 425
  • Index 439
  • Acknowledgments 457
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