Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America

Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America

by Andrew Young
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Andrew Young is one of the most important figures of the U.S. civil rights movement and one of America's best-known African American leaders. Working closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he endured beatings and arrests while participating in seminal civil rights campaigns. In 1964, he became Executive Director of the

Overview

Andrew Young is one of the most important figures of the U.S. civil rights movement and one of America's best-known African American leaders. Working closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he endured beatings and arrests while participating in seminal civil rights campaigns. In 1964, he became Executive Director of the SCLC, serving with King during a time of great accomplishment and turmoil. In describing his life through his election to Congress in 1972, this memoir provides revelatory, riveting reading. Young's analysis of the connection between racism, poverty, and a militarized economy will resonate with particular relevance for readers today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In An Easy Burden Andrew Young draws on his own life's experiences to recount with both passion and objectivity one of the most dramatic periods in U.S. history.

-President Jimmy Carter

There is no better personal account of the struggles of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement than Andrew Young's An Easy Burden. The strategies, the alliances, and the debates that created the greatest social movement America has ever seen are here in a personal and touching story.

-Juan Williams, Senior Correspondent,Morning Edition

Andy Young's courageous participation and strategic leadership were crucial to the success of the Civil Rights Movement. His political witness and theological insight are indispensable to any understanding of those historic events.

--James H. Cone, Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781602580732
Publisher:
Baylor University Press
Publication date:
01/28/2008
Edition description:
With a Foreward by Quincy Jones
Pages:
550
Sales rank:
753,456
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


We Have Come So Far

We have come so far, yet we still have a long, long way to go. "Freedom is a constant struggle," says the Negro spiritual. "We've struggled so long, that we must be free." And we are free. That is the lesson of the American civil rights movement. We are as free as we dare to be.

There were many who made the American civil rights movement possible: men and women, preachers and laypeople, students and workers, young and old. But in the 1960s, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization I was involved with during the civil rights movement, was largely made up of thirtyish, Southern-born, Negro preachers. We were children of the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We spent our adolescence enjoying the rise of the United States as a defender of liberty and democracy in World War II. Our high school and university life was defined and colored by the social responsibility of the Marshall Plan, a sense of world community signaled by the founding of the United Nations and, yes, the successful liberation of India from British colonialism—without violence.

Even with the nuclear clouds above us, racial segregation surrounding us, and crippling seeds of inferiority sown within us by a thoroughly racist society, we were able to lay claim to a heritage of faith in God, confidence in the undiminished potential of our country, and hope for better tomorrows for ourselves and our children. We believed because we sensed the power and grandeur of the ideals of this nation. We lived in the South, in the midst of its horror and shame, but our eyes were on the prize of freedom; wewere willing to pay the price for freedom, we were willing to die for freedom, but we knew that the freedom to which we aspired could never be achieved by killing.

We began our struggle as a means of survival against the oppressive racism of our time. We were all confronted daily with disadvantages imposed on us simply by the color of our skin and the texture of our hair. Our religion taught us that we too were created in the image of God. Our schoolbooks taught us that we were "endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights." Yet our society determined to legally deprive us of self-respect, educational opportunity, political power, and economic access. Because we believed in this nation, we sought to remove the barriers that separated us from white society—not out of a need to be close to white people, but to gain the same access to society's benefits that they enjoyed. Whites and some blacks assumed this would mean the assimilation of traditional white values and culture. But we knew there were no intrinsically "white values" and that in an open relationship the power and meaning of our black experience would stand on its own merit and enrich the larger society.

We believed in spite of it all, that as children of God and agents of history we could redeem the soul of America. In the Old Testament, the redeemer was a kinsman who bought back land that one had lost. In the New Testament, the Redeemer is Jesus Christ, who paid for the sins of all believers with his life. The former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass described the effort to end slavery as a struggle to save "black men's bodies and white men's souls." It was in this tradition that the preachers who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference decided its mission was "to redeem the soul of America." It was an ambitious mission for a small band of Negro preachers, a mission that could only be conceived in faith. That soul we saw less in America's actions than in its ideals: freedom, equality, justice. While we endured segregation, we knew that America had shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters in a war that ended slavery. We knew that America had risen up out of the depths of a Great Depression to defeat fascism. We had cheered the exploits of Dorie Miller and the Tuskegee Airmen and other colored soldiers who refused to let racial segregation prevent them from offering their lives for freedom and for America, and we were inspired by their example. Dorie Miller was told he could only be a cook's helper, but he dared to believe he could shoot down enemy aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen dared to believe black men could fly.

We were thought to be naive, but in truth we were visionary. We dared to believe that America could be healed of the gangrene of racism. We saw America as we could become, not just as we were. We believed that people could change, because we were constantly aware of how far we had come, personally. But most of all, we believed that a free society was constantly changing and that we could influence those changes to accommodate the needs and aspirations of all of our citizens, and that race, creed, gender, and national origin could be strengths rather than problems.

We began with the limited goal of ending racial segregation. But we came to understand segregation as just one aspect of the barrier confronting black Americans in American society. The March on Washington became a march for jobs and freedom, because in a nation based on free enterprise, access to jobs and money are an essential component of freedom. We came to see the war in Vietnam as a symbol of the destructive role America was playing in suppressing the cause of freedom for people of color not just at home, but around the world. As America made the world safe for democracy, we had to make America's democracy safe for the world.

Racism, war, and poverty were anchors dragging on our society, preventing us from reaching our full potential, as if anchors from a nineteenth-century sailing ship had been attached to the space shuttle. We accepted the challenges of detaching those anchors. We knew it was a burden, but we believed it was an easy burden in a country as great as ours. We believed that God didn't give anyone more burden than he or she had the strength to bear. Our faith made our burdens light, because we never carried them alone. Our understanding and clarity of vision was a blessing, and I was taught that God requires us to use the gifts that we have been given. Racism, war, and poverty were heavy burdens, to challenge injustice was an easy burden.

We possessed a fundamental faith in democracy and free enterprise. We learned to address the nation through a free press; we made our claims on the economy by word and deed. We believed in our American heritage—a great people in a great nation that was ready to lead humankind in a new way of thinking and working. We believed in a future that we would help to create from our faith in spite of very real fears. Martin expressed it for all of us when he constantly reminded us that "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Each of us came to the civil rights movement by a different path and our backgrounds influenced our styles of leadership and approaches to the challenges we faced. I begin by sharing my personal history, because of its impact on the role I chose to play in SCLC, to give some sense of life for American Negroes before the civil rights movement, and to share the spiritual and cultural values of the black community that were the foundation for our efforts.

I hope this book will foster a better understanding of our intentions and our tactics, our struggles and weaknesses, and in so doing will help all of us recognize that our struggle continues, that the rise and fall of enthusiasms is a necessary rhythm of social change. Energy and vitality come with vision, and at this moment we do not see clearly.

But perhaps a brighter vision of our future can be inspired by a better understanding of our recent past.


What People are saying about this

James H. Cone

Andy Young's courageous participation and strategic leadership were crucial to the success of the Civil Rights Movement. His political witness and theological insight are indispensable to any understanding of those historic events.

Juan Williams

There is no better personal account of the struggles of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement than Andrew Young's An Easy Burden. The strategies, the alliances, and the debates that created the greatest social movement America has ever seen are here in a personal and touching story.

Coretta Scott King

With extraordinary insight and humanity, Andrew Young brings to life major campaigns of the movement and illuminates with rare honesty the key personalities on all sides and their motives. An Easy Burden is required reading for everyone who wants to better understand Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, and the ongoing struggle for social justice that continues in his name.

President Jimmy Carter

In An Easy Burden Andrew Young draws on his own life's experiences to recount with both passion and objectivity one of the most dramatic periods in U.S. history.

Meet the Author

Andrew Young was born in New Orleans in 1932. In 1960, he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He served as its executive director from 1964 to 1970. He was elected to three terms in Congress and two terms as Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first African American to be appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Baylor University Press

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >