King and the Other America: The Poor People's Campaign and the Quest for Economic Equality

Univ. of California. Jan. 2019. 384p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520288577. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520963436. SOC SCI
Laurent (American studies, Paris Inst. of Political Studies) examines Martin Luther King Jr.'s last campaign in the context of his evolving thoughts on economic justice. The author spends early chapters weaving through the history of redistributive justice and the black community, presenting King as a continuum of black activism since the colonial era. Laurent shows how modern popular interpretations of iconic black figures attempt to fit them neatly into an American narrative of progress, when their words often challenged this narrative at its core. All of this contextualizes later chapters on "The Poor People's Campaign." Beginning in 1964, in response to Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, King articulated the need for a radical overhaul of the American economic system. King spoke of two Americas: one of wealth, isolated in suburbs and affluent city centers, the other in impoverished racially segregated urban neighborhoods and isolated rural white areas. Laurent concludes the Poor People's Campaign should be seen not as a failure, even as many of its goals were not met, it demonstrated it was possible to build a coalition to fight for economic and racial justice.
VERDICT A fresh look at King's last campaign, and the intersection of race and class in America.

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