"An elegant and timely history of how black intellectuals have long made a case for the intersections between class and race."—The Nation
"A meticulously researched look into the development of King’s thought. . . . Laurent’s important new book highlights the depth of the wisdom and organizing skill he brought to the movement for economic justice."—The Progressive
Shortly before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. called for a radical redistribution of economic and political power to transform the whole of society. In 1967, he envisioned and designed the Poor People’s Campaign, an interracial effort that was carried out after his death. This campaign brought together impoverished Americans of all races to demand better wages, better jobs, better homes, and better education. King and the Other America explores this overlooked and obscured episode of the late civil rights movement, deepening our understanding of King’s commitment to social justice and also of the long-term trajectory of the civil rights movement.
Digging into earlier radical arguments about economic inequality across America, which King drew on throughout his entire political and religious life, Sylvie Laurent argues that the Poor People’s Campaign was the logical culmination of King’s influences and ideas, which have had lasting impact on young activists and the public. Fifty years later, growing inequality and grinding poverty in the United States have spurred new efforts to rejuvenate the campaign. This book draws the connections between King's perceptive thoughts on substantive justice and the ongoing quest for equality for all.
About the Author
Sylvie Laurent is a French cultural historian who studies race and class in the United States and teaches American Studies at Sciences Po (Paris). She was previously a W. E. B. Du Bois fellow at Harvard University.
“In her debut book, Laurent (American Studies/Paris Institute of Political Studies) draws on extensive research into Martin Luther King Jr.'s writings, speeches, and papers as well as archival and published sources to make a strong argument that his campaign for social justice went beyond race to encompass broad, transformative social and economic changes for all poor Americans. . . . King's analysis of social issues, as delineated in Laurent's useful reappraisal, seems as relevant today.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"A meticulously researched look into the development of King’s thought. . . . As we commemorate King’s life and legacy, Laurent’s important new book highlights the depth of the wisdom and organizing skill he brought to the movement for economic justice."
— The Progressive
“This powerful work invites a major reconsideration of American civil rights history, the significance of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, and especially of King’s deeply egalitarian socialist vision of society. The book transcends and negates traditional notions that King was a civil rights leader committed exclusively to the liberation of his African-American people. Without ever abandoning that objective, he expanded his range of activism in pursuing a vision of a fair and just society for all oppressed people. Laurent’s book above all restores King to his rightful and still profoundly under-recognized place in the history of militant African-American liberation figures.”
“The story [Laurent] tells is one that evokes the passions of the period known as the Sixties while carefully explaining the personalities and politics of the movement for economic and social justice at the time. Given the centrality of King to the Poor People’s Campaign, it is only natural that Laurent’s text makes King the centerpiece of her narrative.”
"In her new book King and the Other America, historian Sylvie Laurent helps rescue the Poor People’s Campaign from this unfair reputation and makes a compelling case that it deserves to be not only better remembered but also more closely studied and emulated by the left today. . . . King and the Other America helps make another important argument. Situating the economic egalitarianism of the Poor People’s Campaign and Martin Luther King Jr.’s later years in a far longer history of black activism and social-democratic thinking, she helps map out the deeper intellectual and political roots of an entwined racial and economic egalitarianism that has been at the center of much of African-American politics for nearly a century. By doing so, Laurent offers us an elegant and timely history of how black intellectuals have long made a case for the intersections between class and race."
— The Nation