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Selma to Saigon

The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

Daniel S. Lucks

Publication Year: 2014

The civil rights and anti--Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. Before the war gained widespread attention, the New Left, the SNCC, and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worked together to create a biracial alliance with the potential to make significant political and social gains in Washington. Contention over the war, however, exacerbated preexisting generational and ideological tensions that undermined the coalition, and Lucks analyzes the causes and consequences of this disintegration.

This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-8

The civil rights movement and the debates over the Vietnam War were at the center of the turbulence of the 1960s. After all, the civil rights and antiwar movements were two of the greatest protest movements of twentieth-century America (the labor movement was a third). They sharpened the...

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1. The Cold War and the Long Civil Rights Movement

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pp. 9-36

A decade before President Johnson plunged the nation into a large-scale war in Vietnam, famed African American entertainer Paul Robeson was under siege. His personal and financial fortunes had plummeted after the U.S. government revoked his passport in 1950 because of his outspoken...

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2. African Americans and the Long Cold War Thaw, 1954-1965

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pp. 37-72

The Geneva Accords of 1954 signified the end of France’s colonial empire in the Far East. Among other things, it temporarily divided Vietnam at the seventeenth parallel and called for free elections by 1956. Wishing to distance themselves from the taint of compromise with the communist forces...

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3. Vietnam and Civil Rights

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pp. 73-110

On August 6, 1965, approximately six months after transforming the conflict in Vietnam into an American war, Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in a solemn ceremony at the Capitol. Approximately seventy years since African Americans were systematically disenfranchised in the...

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4. The Vietnam War and Black Power

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pp. 111-140

After its crowning legislative accomplishments in 1964 and 1965, the civil rights movement floundered in 1966. With the Vietnam War now sucking the life from the Great Society and the civil rights agenda stalled in Congress, African Americans’ impatience and anger mounted. This was best...

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5. Dr. King's Painful Dilemma

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pp. 141-168

On the evening of Monday, March 15, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. was emotionally and physically drained. He huddled with a few close aides in front of a small black-and-white television in a living room in Selma, Alabama, anxiously awaiting President Johnson’s address to Congress on...

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6. The Second Coming of Martin Luther King Jr., 1966-1968

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pp. 169-212

By 1966, King’s prayers had not been answered, and the military escalation in Vietnam continued unabated. LBJ was consumed by the war, and civil rights leaders discerned a diminution in his passion for civil rights.1 Vietnam would cast its shadow on American life well into the 1970s and...

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7. Moderates and the Vietnam War

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pp. 213-248

Ever since the end of Reconstruction, African Americans had yearned and struggled for acceptance in mainstream, middle-class American life. Langston Hughes’s “I, Too, Sing America” poignantly encapsulated African Americans’ wish to share in the American Dream.1 By the summer of...

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pp. 249-254

By the time U.S. troops finally withdrew from Vietnam in January 1973, all the civil rights organizations had expressed their opposition to the war—some sooner than others, and for differing rationales. However, it was Lyndon Johnson’s departure from the White House that marked the...

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pp. 255-258

Historians research and write in relative isolation, but this book could not have been completed without the support and assistance of family, friends, librarians, institutions, and numerous historians who offered valuable advice and critical feedback. I am thrilled to acknowledge the numerous...


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pp. 259-324


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pp. 325-346


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pp. 347-366

Series Page

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813145099
E-ISBN-10: 0813145090
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813145075

Page Count: 394
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century
Series Editor Byline: Steven F. Lawson & Cynthia G. Fleming See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 874029345
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Selma to Saigon

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Subject Headings

  • War and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cold War -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century.
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