Around the world, 1956 gave birth to new beginnings, fresh bursts of freedom sprouting from withering husks of the prewar order. The winning nonviolent movement in Ghana would render irreversible the overthrow of European colonialism in Africa, its last frontier. Poor nations of the South had banded together in Bandung, Indonesia, to create a "nonaligned" movement as an independent third force between the rival American and Soviet empires. In Moscow, the new Communist Party leader, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced Stalinist crimes at a party congress in February, sparking disaffection among communists worldwide and a democratic revolt in Hungary that Soviet tanks would crush in the fall.
In the United States the demise of Senator Joseph McCarthy diminished the anticommunist witchhunt that bore his name, opening up breathing space in the constricted vessels of American political culture for bold new ideas and initiatives. The South's doubly virulent mix of McCarthyism and white supremacy abated enough to allow a new generation of African American leadership to find footholds in the brittle wall of segregation, Young leaders like King, Ralph Abernathy, and Jo Ann Robinson in Montgomery, Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham, and Medgar Evers in Mississippi danced warily with pillars of the noncommunist American Left, white and black. They reached out for guidance from figures such as A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, A. J. Muste, and Norman Thomas, while holding them at arm's length. They energized and helped reconstruct a national black leadership network (ministers, educators, journalists, politicians) paralyzed by McCarthyism that would