Review by Choice Review
Can anything fresh be written about the Civil Rights Movement, and particularly about the roles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon Johnson? The answer is a surprising yes. Defying the trend in civil rights scholarship that concentrates on grassroots activism rather than leadership, Kotz examines the elitist of the elites, probing the relationship between King and Johnson. His interpretation reflects the consensus of historians--that King and Johnson never fully trusted each other but found it convenient to cooperate until the achievement of the legislative milestones of 1964 and 1965, and that they parted ways after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when King spoke out against the war in Vietnam and poverty in the US. But Kotz enriches his narrative with material unavailable to earlier chroniclers: LBJ's telephone conversations, new interviews, and recently declassified FBI documents. Indeed, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's pursuit of King was so relentless that he almost joins King and Johnson on the title page. Examining the King-Johnson relationship allows the narrative to move smoothly between the major protests across the South and the legislative maneuvering in Washington, adding fluidity to a well-written account. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels and libraries. A. J. Dunar University of Alabama in Huntsville
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
King's leadership of the Civil Rights movement catalyzed a revolution in public consciousness that Johnson's matchless political skills cemented in the landmark voting and civil rights laws of the 1960s. In this engrossing narrative history, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kotz (A Passion for Equality) follows their tense but fruitful working relationship from Johnson's assumption of the presidency in 1963 to King's assassination five years later. Theirs was a wary partnership, uneasy when they joined forces against Jim Crow in the wake of Kennedy's assassination, strained by King's opposition to the Vietnam War and continually undermined by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who bombarded Johnson with reports of King's links to Communists and of his sexual indiscretions. In Kotz's sympathetic but complex and critical assessment, the Machiavellian politician and the visionary activist become almost brothers under the skin-both genuine idealists and cool-headed, at times even ruthless political strategists, both plagued by inner demons that threatened to undo their agenda. Employing newly available telephone conversations and FBI wiretap logs, among other sources, Kotz's detailed and gripping account takes readers into the bloody trenches of the Civil Rights movement and the bitter congressional floor battles to get legislation past the segregationist bloc. It is a fascinating portrait of two leaders working at a time when the low skullduggery of politics really was infused with the highest moral values. Photos. Agent, Timothy Seldes. (Jan. 12) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kotz charts the fragile relationship between unlikely allies that produced the most significant civil rights legislation in American history, then fractured over the killing fields of Vietnam. The author begins his tracing of the tortuous, occasionally widely divergent routes taken through history's wilderness by Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. with the gunfire in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Johnson became president, and King, who had delivered his "I Have a Dream" only months earlier, was not sanguine about this Texan with a spotty racial record. But LBJ, Kotz shows, had already urged JFK to couch civil rights issues in moral rather than purely political terms and was about to undergo a transformation that surprised social progressives even as it enraged the intransigent South. He decided he would push through Congress the most ambitious social agenda since the New Deal. Before he left office in 1969, Johnson--buttressed by King's brilliant work in the streets, churches, jailhouses and, eventually, the consciences of America--had directed the passage of several civil rights acts, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, open housing legislation, and education and health care initiatives that gave hope to millions. Kotz (Wild Blue Yonder: Money, Politics, and the B-1 Bomber, 1988, etc.) does a brilliant job telling the stories of these two very different, very charismatic characters and analyzing the forces that drew them together, then drove them apart. Among the latter: the vile and illegal efforts of J. Edgar Hoover (whom the author compares with Iago) to subvert the movement, which Hoover was convinced was communist-inspired. The FBI bugged King's telephones and hotel rooms and attempted to use his private words and actions to discredit him. Too soon, the roads of King and LBJ diverged in the red wood of war. A piquant reminder that great social progress occurs when the powerful collaborate rather than joust. (8 pp. b&w photos) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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