From Civil Rights to Human Rights


Following on yesterday's post on George Houser and the Journey of Reconciliation:
In Today's Legal History Blog, Mary Dudziak notes the following review:

Thomas F. Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007) is reviewed for H-1960s by Norman Markowitz, Department of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

A key passage, not least for its use of basketball as a metaphor for understanding everything:

In effect, King became for the mass movement something like a great "center" in basketball (to use a sports metaphor), through which both offensive and defensive action flowed.Others were the practical organizers, the playmakers or point guards.But, without the center, without his ability to absorb punishment and keep the action around him moving, particularly the players without the ball (the masses of African American people and their civil rights movement allies), and the team would fail. Although some historians have stressed the limitations of the Southern based civil rights movement,especially its lack of any program beyond the elimination of de jure segregation and the establishment of elemental citizenship rights that northern blacks already enjoyed, Jackson shows clearly that King always viewed economic and social rights as essential components of civil rights.

For King, the defeat and destruction of segregation in the South was a necessary condition to the establishment of broad economic and social rights for Northern blacks, other minorities, and the white poor. King's larger socialist orientation, Jackson shows, led him to understand that racism directed against African Americans both obscured and intensified class oppression.

I'm reminded of this every year when our local paper, the Colorado Springs Gazette
, prints its annual absurdly ahistorical and ritualistic editorial on King day -- never mind that this Goldwater-Libertarian paper opposed every single piece of civil rights legislation in the 1960s (all that government intrusion on the private sector, you know), reprinted approvingly Reagan's slurs and innuendos about King, has opposed all extensions of the Voting Rights Act, and opposes all forms of affirmative action whatsoever, claiming (falsely) that King would have opposed them also. King's economic critique arose from his prophetic religious stance, as this review reminds us.


Anonymous said…
Jackson won the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the OAH for this book!