Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love /
The Measure of a Man /
Why We Can't Wait
A Testament of Hope /
A Knock at Midnight /
The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1948-1963
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community /
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
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What Would "Dr. Kang" Say?
By J.B. Borders
If Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today, he
would probably have some no-nonsense
reactions to the current
plight of our people and the state of world affairs.
"For while the tale of how we suffer and how we are
delighted and how we may triumph is never new," James
Baldwin once observed, "it must always be heard. There
isn't any other tale to tell."
August 2, 2004, will mark the 80th anniversary of the birth of
the late Baldwin. There will be some attention paid to this
occurrence, no doubt, but it will likely pale in comparison to
the commemoration of the 75th birthday of the late Reverend
Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. in January 2004.
The beloved "Dr. Kang" is most remembered for his "I
Have a Dream" speech and for his philosophy of
nonviolent social change. Gradually, however, he is becoming
better known for the pronouncements of the last two years of his
life. That's when he began to call insistently for "a
radical redistribution of economic and political power."
"For years I labored with the idea of reforming the
existing institutions of the society - a little change here, a
little change there," he reportedly confided in an
interview with journalist David Halberstam. "Now I feel
quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction
of the entire society, a revolution of values."
A few days later, King told his staff "We must see that the
evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all
tied together and you can't really get rid of one without
getting rid of the others."
From that point on, King began to talk much more publicly and
deliberately about "economic justice" and ways to
restructure ownership of American industries and to provide
guaranteed income and housing to more Americans, including those
doing housework or studying in schools.
In addition, King began to speak more about fundamental
"human rights" and less about "civil
rights." According to historian Stewart Burns, author of To
the Mountaintop: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Sacred Mission to Save
America, King "grasped that 'civil rights' carried too
much baggage of the dominant tradition of American individualism
and not enough counterweight from a tradition of communitarian
impulses, collective striving, and common good."
King's calls for economic justice for black people and for a
redistribution of American wealth got him labeled a
"communist sympathizer" and a traitor. Back in 1967
and 1968, those were serious allegations. The communist
governments of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of
China were considered major enemies of the United States, intent
on the destruction of the entire capitalist system.
A new world order
Today, however, the global political landscape has changed
significantly. The Soviet Union has collapsed. China is now a
major trading partner of the United States and a rapidly
expanding manufacturing center for the international market
(capitalist) economy. So are various countries of the old Soviet
Empire. Like the other growing manufacturing and services
centers throughout Asia and Central and South America, they have
earned their positions the old-fashioned way - they have
undercut the competition, especially U.S. labor.
As a result, the United States has lost more than 2 million jobs
over the past three years alone. These jobs will not be coming
back, most economists predict. Worse, it's not just low-end
manufacturing and service positions that are being lost; there
are now hundreds of thousands of high-skill professional
positions - scientists, engineers, accountants, business
managers - being outsourced offshore by American-based
corporations. Ironically, these jobs are now being filled by
people of color in places like China and India, where a
first-rate electrical engineering graduate can now be had for
$10,000 a year compared to the $80,000 starting salary his U.S.
counterpart would command, according to a recent report in BusinessWeek.
The transfer of existing jobs and the creation of new ones in
these cheaper labor markets have been coupled with the
widespread pilfering of investor dollars in the U.S. stock
market and expensive military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq
that have helped create massive deficits for the American
government and its 50 states. These deficits in turn are forcing
cutbacks in all manner of government services from
transportation and criminal justice to education, health care,
If Martin Luther King was alive today, he would probably not
catch too much flak for pointing out that the problems of
blacks, whites, people of color, the lower and middle classes
will not be solved until economic relations in this country
become "more person-centered than property-and
profit-centered" and "the whole of American society
takes a new turn toward greater economic justice."
Of course, one of the many obstacles historically to building
these coalitions of common interest has been the American Dream
itself. For generations, people clung to the notion that this
was a land of opportunity where someone could literally start
with nothing and by sheer dint of hard work, determination, and
a dollop of good luck scale the heights of any profession and
amass an immense personal fortune.
The end of a dream?
That dream is more illusion than possibility, according to
several new studies and reports that reveal decreasing upward
mobility for most workers and increasing income gaps between the
nation's rich and poor citizens.
One study summarized in BusinessWeek was conducted by
sociologists from Wichita State University. It tracked the
economic progress of groups of men and compared it to the social
and economic class of their fathers. Updating an earlier 1978
study, the team from Wichita State found that "sons from
the bottom three-quarters of the socioeconomic scale were less
likely to move up in the 1990s than in the 1960s.
Just 10% of sons whose fathers were in the bottom quarter had made
it to the top quarter by 1998, the authors found. By contrast,
23% of lower-class sons had done so by 1973, according to the
earlier study. Similarly, only 51% of sons whose fathers
belonged to the second-highest quarter equaled or surpassed the
economic standing of their parents in the 1990s. In the 1960s,
Worse, according to data collected by the Congressional Budget
Office, the gap between rich and poor more than doubled from1979
The gap has grown so wide, in fact, that the richest 1 percent
of Americans in 2000 had more money to spend after taxes than
the entire bottom 40 percent. The wealthiest 2.8 million
Americans had $950 billion after taxes, or 15.5 percent, of the
nation's $6.2 trillion economic pie in 2000. The poorest 110
million Americans, on the other hand, had only14.4 percent, or
slightly more than $890 billion, of all after-tax money.
This income chasm between the nation's poor and wealthy is the
largest it has been since the 1930s. The growing gap is one
reason an increasing number of organizations and experts are
calling for changes in tax policy, higher wages for low-income
workers, an end to excessive compensation for corporate
executives, a clamp-down on insider trading on the stock
exchanges, more shareholder control of publicly-traded
corporations (democratic capitalism, its proponents call it) and
more accountability for no-bid sweetheart contracts awarded to
the business cronies of the Bush administration.
At the same time, there is a growing emphasis on social
entrepreneurship in the U.S. Over the past 15-20 years an
increasing number of nonprofit organizations have begun to
successfully marry the tools of sound business management to
goals of effecting sensible social change.
If "Dr. Kang" was around today I think he might be
encouraged by some of these trends. On the other hand, I think
he would most certainly be an opponent of the racist global
trading policies enacted by the U.S. and their increasing
exploitation of people of color in developing countries. I think
he would be as opposed to the war in Central Asia as he was to
the war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. I think he would also be
supportive of the leaders of so many of the developing nations
who are calling for an international redistribution of economic
and political power.
He'd probably also be a lot more insistent on finding nonviolent
solutions to the tensions that have built up globally and in
black communities across America. Unfortunately, I think he'd
really be disappointed that no one would pay him any serious
attention on this matter. Then again, King might have softened
his stance on nonviolence if he was alive today. He might have
conceded that sometimes it is righteous to fight fire with
Certainly he would acknowledge the significance of the fact that in
the year we celebrate his 75th birthday, we also celebrate the
200th anniversary of freedom for Haiti and the 10th anniversary
of freedom for South Africa. Both of these nations and countless
others in the years between their triumphs won their freedom
through violence. And given a choice between nonviolent
subjugation and violently-won freedom, I would like to think
even Martin Luther King Jr. would eventually concede to the will
of the masses and opt for freedom "by any means
Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. After all, it's
hard to predict what anyone might think or feel or do over the
course of 75 or 80 years of struggle. Nevertheless, as James
Baldwin might have said, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Besides, there's no other tale even worth telling and no other
triumph worth wishing for.
J.B. Borders is a social commentator
and cultural critic. He is also president of J.B. Borders &
Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in
strategic planning, fund development, and program implementation
and evaluation for nonprofit organizations. Borders was the
founding editor of the New Orleans Tribune and an erstwhile
editor of The Black Collegian Magazine. He has also served as
managing director of the National Black Arts Festival and
executive director of the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
Borders earned a bachelor's and a master's degree at Brown
University, where he co-founded Rites & Reason Theatre in
James B. Borders IV /
J.B. Borders & Associates /
3655 Piedmont Drive /
New Orleans, LA 70122-4775 /
504 945-7015, voice & fax
504 442-1645, mobile / email@example.com
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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story
of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer
American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.
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P.B. Young, Newspaperman
Race, Politics, and Journalism in the New South, 1910-1962
By Henry Lewis Suggs
P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young's personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.
Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young's personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.—David B. Parker,
Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.—Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
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A History of the Black Press
By Armistead S. Pride and Clint C. Wilson
work, Dr. Wilson chronicles the development
of black newspapers in New York City and
draws parallels to the development of
presses in Washington, D.C., and in 46 of
the 50 United States. He describes the
involvement of the press with civil rights
and the interaction of black and nonblack
columnists who contributed to black- and
white-owned newspapers. . . . Through
reorganization and exhaustive research to
ascertain source materials from among
hundreds of original and photocopied
documents, clippings, personal notations,
and private correspondence in Dr. Pride's
files, Dr. Wilson completed this compelling
and inspiring study of the black press from
its inception in 1827 to 1997.
This is a major and noteworthy contribution
to scholarship on the African American
press. As Washington Post columnist Dorothy
Gilliam concludes in the foreword, “Pride
and Wilson’s comprehensive history is a
lasting tribute to the men and women within
the black press of both the past and the
present and to those who will make it what
it will be in the future.
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
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Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.
She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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10 February 2012