The Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. In a major reinterpretation of civil rights and Chicano movement history, Gordon K. Mantler demonstrates how King’s unfinished crusade became the era’s most high-profile attempt at multiracial collaboration and sheds light on the interdependent relationship between racial identity and political coalition among African Americans and Mexican Americans. Mantler argues that while the fight against poverty held great potential for black-brown cooperation, such efforts also exposed the complex dynamics between the nation’s two largest minority groups.
Drawing on oral histories, archives, periodicals, and FBI surveillance files, Mantler paints a rich portrait of the campaign and the larger antipoverty work from which it emerged, including the labor activism of Cesar Chavez, opposition of Black and Chicano Power to state violence in Chicago and Denver, and advocacy for Mexican American land-grant rights in New Mexico. Ultimately, Mantler challenges readers to rethink the multiracial history of the long civil rights movement and the difficulty of sustaining political coalitions.
Gordon K. Mantler is assistant professor of writing at The George Washington University.
“The often-overlooked partnership between Mexican American and African American activists of the 1960s receives much-deserved attention in this important contribution to the history of the civil rights era. . . . Recommended. All academic levels/libraries.” —Choice
“Mantler offers an impressive examination of an understudied topic: antipoverty movements. He successfully weaves multiple histories, based on a sometimes staggering array of sources, into a highly readable analysis of social movement organizing.” —Journal of American History
“[Reflects] the way that this particular aspect of the civil rights movement was shaped both by the distinctive groups and individuals who were involved and by its timing in relation to the historical dynamics of twentieth-century American party politics and foreign policy, specifically Democratic Party liberalism and the trajectory of the Vietnam War.” —North Carolina Historical Review
“Mantler shows the way (the campaign) was a step forward in the construction of multiracial coalitions, and also as a way to draw attention to a number of the group’s causes.” –A New Left Blog, Top Ten Books of 2013
“[A] richly textured and deeply researched study.” —Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“This fascinating and richly researched book offers an important corrective to assumptions that identity politics and multiracial coalitions are necessarily mutually exclusive.” —American Historical Review
“A compelling account of coalition building between Mexican Americans and African Americans in the quest for economic justice.”–Labor