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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
An oft-told story, this account of the Montgomery desegregation struggle benefits from a subtle shift in focus to the ordinary men and women who served as the foot soldiers in the 1955 bus boycott. Besides a dutiful overview of King's formative years, pastor and editor Jackson (The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., Volume VI) shines a spotlight on Montgomery community leaders like E.D. Nixon, a member of the influential Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Jo Ann Robinson, of the local Women's Political Council, who fought for civil rights (and clashed over tactics) long before King arrived on the scene. The decisive battle began as a modest attempt to gain concessions such as hiring African American bus drivers and restraining white drivers from verbally abusing black passengers; though King and Rosa Parks brought the boycott unprecedented attention, the movement's greatest resource was its historic alliance of working and professional classes-men and women who rarely mingled but suffered alike at the hands at the whites. Success was bittersweet: King outgrew the Montgomery crisis; Rosa Parks, destitute, left the city for Detroit; remaining leaders squabbled or succumbed to the white backlash. Jackson's storytelling skill and broad perspective make this a worthy addition to the literature of the U.S. civil rights movement.
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