King and the Other America: The Poor People's Campaign and the Quest for Economic Equality (Paperback)

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"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.

Praise For…


“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.”

— Truthdig

“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.”

— CounterPunch
Product Details
ISBN: 9780520288577
ISBN-10: 0520288572
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Pages: 384
Language: English