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Thomas E BOOKS & THE CULTURE The Economist BY TODD MOYE From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice By Thomas F. Jackson University of Pennsylvania Press 472 pages, $39.95 istorians have written so many books about Martin Luther King, Jr. that it might seem there is little left to say about the man or the American civil rights movement many think he personified. Thomas F. Jackson’s new book should dispel that impression. More than any other historian of the movement, Jackson takes the civil rights leader’s ideas seri ously. The author, a former research er and consulting editor of the King Papers Project at Stanford University, has steeped himself in his subject’s sec ular thought and writing. He casts King as arguably the most important, and certainly the most eloquent, American political economist of the 20th century. During King’s public life, black unemployment figures hovered at around 20 percentalways at least double the figure for whiteseven as the country experienced unprecedented economic growth. King recognized early on that without meaningful economic reform for blacks in the cities, civil and voting rights reforms would have little meaning, and he often repeated his belief that America needed a “radical redistribution of political and economic powers’ While the mainstream press was reporting what King had to say about desegregation and the right to vote, King had more ambitious goals. He worked to bind the agendas of labor and civil rights organizations, called for a guaranteed annual income for all Americans, lobbied for massive public works programs to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and spur employment, and demanded an end to American militarism. Jackson describes King as a democratic socialistone who believes that economic and political power should be distributed equitably among all the people of a polity. From his teens, when King wrote of his “anti-capitalist feelings,” throughout his college, graduate school, and seminary years, and finally into his life as a public figure, his beliefs were strikingly consistent. \(Pastor King was thrust onto the national scene during the Montgomery bus boycott at the age of 26; he became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize at a wider audience, King resisted labeling his prescription for what ailed America. “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism,” Jackson quotes him as saying, “but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” Nonetheless, King emerges from this portrait as a democratic socialist, first, last, and always, who also happened to be a civil rights leader. For King, the right to vote was no more SEPTEMBER 7, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25