AN EASY BURDEN: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America by Andrew Young

AN EASY BURDEN: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sweeping, well-written account of the southern civil rights movement by an important insider. Born in 1932 to parents who believed in ""God, hard work, and education"" as weapons against segregation, this eventual congressman, UN ambassador, and mayor of Atlanta came of age at a critical time in African-American history. Well educated and well read himself, Young came to the civil-tights movement with a belief that civility, compassion, and nonviolence could be equally formidable weapons in the struggle for equality. (""Daddy,"" he writes, ""taught me that racism was a sickness and to have compassion for racist whites as I would have compassion for a polio victim."") He also rejected the then widely circulated belief, drawn from the teachings of W.E.B. DuBois, that only the efforts of the top ten percent of the ""Negro race"" (the ""talented tenth"") would be capable of advancing the cause of their people, cultivating instead a populist view of the struggle. Young's convictions served him well as a lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr., in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as he acted both as a liaison to white groups (""the changes we were proposing were enormously threatening and we had to help white people embrace them"") and as a moderate voice within King's closest circle of advisors. Young takes his readers to the streets of Birmingham, Selma, St. Augustine, and Washington; he vividly recounts the growth of the movement through the 1960s and the turmoil after King's assassination. Young's firsthand reportage adds much of value to his book; so does his continuing commitment to ethnic and social equality based on ""a strong vision of a better life to come, not just the wreaking of vengeance or a mere trading of one form of exploitation for another, or one oppressor for another."" A fine, memorable addition to the literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1996
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: HarperCollins