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 according to data collected by the Congressional Budget Office, the gap

between rich and poor more than doubled from1979 to 2000.



Books by 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, and housing.

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, 63% did."

Worse, according to data collected by the Congressional Budget Office, the gap between rich and poor more than doubled from1979 to 2000.

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 fire. 

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 necessary."

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 1969.

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 /

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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 II

In this 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 America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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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.WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 10 February 2012




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