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tt Austin’s Largest Selection of International Folk Art, Silver Jewelry and Textiles “T” E 0 R. CO S FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD A Ail 209 CONGRESS AVE.AUSTIN 512/479-8377 \\a. ,OPEN DAILY 10-6 ‘ 044 t Ts a GROWNUP GIFTS FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES NORTH SOUTH RESEARCH E. RIVERSIDE 832-8544 443-2292 502-9323 441-5555 EAST S.E.MILITARY CENTRAL WEST 654-8536 333-3043 822-7767 521-5213 NEW AUSTIN STORE! STASSNEY 727 WEST STASSNEY 512 707-9069 concrete expression of a militant, insurgent, black-labor alliance, organizing unorganized workers to win collective bargaining rights, dignity, and higher wages.” He was excited to lend his name and energies to the struggle. At the same time, King and the SCLC were planning a new initiative that would culminate in Washington later that summer. “Let’s find something that is so possible, so achievable, so pure, so simple, that even the [white] backlash can’t do much to deny it,” he told his staff, “and yet something so nontoken and so basic to life that even the black nationalists can’t disagree with it.” That something would be a demand for guaranteed jobs or income, and Jackson is quick to point out that it was more radical than any of the plans offered by King’s black nationalist and black power critics. The SCLC would make the demand in the most dramatic way yet, by organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial coalition from around the country who would take up residence in a tent city on the National Mall and stay there until federal officials responded to their ultimatum. King knew it was a daring, even impossible, plan, in part because it involved confronting the “very [same] federal machine that has often come to our aid.” He embraced it for just that reason. Following a long struggle, the city of Memphis did finally recognize the garbage workers’ right to collective bargaining, and the city workers eventually received pay increases and health benefits. But King’s assassination in Memphis on April 4 doomed the Poor People’s Campaign. The multiracial coalition King had envisioned did not materialize at Resurrection City in Washington, and the campaign dissolved later that summer. King “bequeathed his radical vision to a nation that increasingly spurned him while alive and was all too eager to canonize him in death,” Jackson concludes. Indeed, King has become a man for all seasons in the memories of contemporary Americans. His vision has been so distorted by partisans in search of a usable past that in the 2006 elections, the National Black Republican Association \(“Uncle Tom’s Cabin Republicans,” one wag called the King was a Republican,” urging black Americans to vote GOP to further his legacy. The notion that King could have supported a political party that brought us the war of choice in Iraq and tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor is beyond ludicrous. But it says something about us as a people that we would even try to have the argument. From Civil Rights to Human Rights rescues the historical King from these crazy debates. I cannot in good conscience recommend it as an easy or entirely enjoyable read, but I can promise that it will reward close study. The book was written for academics, but it deserves a large audience. If it finds that audience, it should help to reshape our collective understanding not only of King and the civil rights movement, but of the movements for peace and racial and economic justice that preceded King and continue today. Now that I think of it, maybe we should allow the members of the National Black Republican Association and their cohorts to think King was one of them. If he was, they’ve got some changing to do. Like Jackson, I have a great and abiding hope that next January, and every January thereafter, instead of saluting the King we contemporary Americans have inventedthe nonthreatening King, sanitized of class consciousnesswe will remember the King who made us uncomfortable, who was willing to lead thousands of poor people into Washington to shut down the nation’s capital until our leaders found a way to distribute power and wealth more equitably. We will celebrate the King who despaired that we Americans “arrogantly feel that we have some divine messianic mission to police the whole world” and challenged us to be warriors for peace. It’s a tall order, but I hope it will happen. You might even say that I, too, have a dream. Todd Moye teaches U.S. History at the University of North Texas in Denton. SEPTEMBER 7, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27