Reviews for March on Washington : Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights

Book News Reviews
Jones (history, University of Wisconsin) claims that King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech has overshadowed the real meaning and goals of the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; he seeks to remedy the situation with details on the true goals of the March, which included integration of labor unions and extending minimum wage to agricultural workers and domestic servants. Jones also looks at the careers of the key figures who organized and spoke at the March, such as trade unionist and Socialist Party member Philip Randolph, and reveals debates among organizers over the use of mass protests and whether to address discrimination against women. The book includes many b&w historical photos. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2013 May #2
Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the march that occasioned it were about not only racial harmony but also the freedom that comes with equal rights and economic opportunity, in other words, jobs. Jones examines the historic 1963 March on Washington from the perspective of its focus on jobs. He zeros in on labor leader A. Philip Randolph, who advocated for an increase in the minimum wage, extension of minimum wage law to agricultural and other workers left out of the federal law, and programs to train workers for well-paying jobs. Randolph's life reflected the complex evolution of the labor movement in the U.S., the influence of socialism, and the racism within the unions that kept out black workers. By refocusing on the jobs agenda of the march, Jones notes that it was relatively easier to allow blacks to have access to seats on buses and at lunch counters than to provide them with access to jobs at the restaurants and bus companies. This is an important look at the true significance of the March on Washington. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2013 December
The main question that arises upon reading this book is, "Why did it take so long for someone to write it?" Jones (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) has crafted a very readable study of one of the best-known events in US history, the March on Washington--except that the author makes clear that Americans have a poor understanding of it. Most provocatively, Jones contends that both the public and scholars have wrongly conceived of the march as a "moderate" event. On the contrary, Jones argues that it reflected and grew out of A. Philip Randolph's "egalitarian vision of social citizenship," which emphasized the crucial nexus of jobs and freedom. Not coincidentally, "jobs and freedom" was the official slogan and goal of the march, and Randolph was its first speaker. To prove this argument, Jones turns attention away from Martin Luther King and his signature "I Have a Dream" speech to the long civil rights movement and to a coterie of men and women--such as Bayard Rustin, Cleveland Robinson, and Dorothy Height, and various "negro" labor associations--whose decades of struggle paved the way for the success of the unprecedented 1963 march. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. P. B. Levy York College of Pennsylvania Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
An account of the American civil rights movement leading up to the infamous 1963 March on Washington, which "aimed not just to end racial segregation and discrimination in the South but also to ensure that Americans of all races had access to quality education, affordable housing, and jobs that paid a living wage." In his latest book, Jones (History/Univ. of Wisconsin; The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South, 2005) examines the little-known history of the people and events that spurred the March on Washington. Much of the book focuses on A. Philip Randolph, an African-American trade unionist who dedicated his life to leveraging his organizations' massive membership rolls for gains in civil rights. In 1941, Randolph organized the first March on Washington--a precursor to the 1963 march--though the march was called off when Randolph achieved his aim: pressuring President Franklin Roosevelt to issue an executive order ensuring that there would be no discriminatory hiring practices within "vocational and training programs for defense production." The world took note--Randolph realized the importance of power in numbers--and the threat of marching thousands within the nation's capitol would be repeated 22 years later. While Jones' book claims to employ the 1963 march as a focal point, the author does not particularly address that march until two-thirds into his work. Jones' overreliance on historical context allows the story to stray. Perhaps most disappointing, however, is that a book whose subtitle promises to examine the "Forgotten History of Civil Rights" devotes so many pages rehashing well-known information, leaving precious little space for examination of the 1963 March on Washington, as the title and preface implies. A broad, less-than-enlightening look at an important historical moment in America that historians have been "too eager to dismiss." Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #2

Jones (history, Univ. of Wisconsin; The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South) vividly reassesses the "forgotten history" of the civil rights movement in this deeply researched investigation, which views the march on Washington not as a sole event, centered on Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, but as a decades-long movement that promoted jobs, housing, and education. Although Jones focuses mainly on civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), president of the influential Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union, he includes portrayals of lesser-known foot soldiers, e.g., black women who encountered discrimination from white society as well as from Randolph himself. Jones deftly traces the ebb and flow of the civil rights movement, beginning in 1941--when Randolph threatened a march on Washington over discrimination in defense industry jobs--and concluding with LBJ signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. VERDICT This excellent revisionist account places the march, on its 50th anniversary, in its historical context, while revealing the economic roots of the modern civil rights movement. General readers and scholars will appreciate this fine, accessible narrative. See also Glenda Gilmore's Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950.--Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, PA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #4

Nearly a quarter-million people gathered on August 28, 1963, for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. University of Wisconsin historian Jones's account explores the link between "black trade unionists'... struggle for fair employment with the southern struggle for civil rights." A. Phillip Randolph holds center stage here, from the 1941 March on Washington that didn't happen (cancelled when Roosevelt created the FEPC) to the 1964 general strike threat (relinquished with Johnson's Civil Rights Act). In its deviation from conventional civil rights history (the path from Rosa Parks to the March), Jones fleshes out its operational milieu, the "organizational networks" upon which that history rests. In addition to his focus on the labor movement, Jones (The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South) attends particularly to the role of black women's clubs and sororities as they grappled with sexism. While King's "I Have a Dream" speech has become the audio through which the March is remembered, Jones's carefully documented, limpid account of the conflicts and compromises that it took to get there, and what remains to be done if the "dream" is to be fulfilled, offers the realities behind the rhetoric. For those who were there, this is an illuminating book; for those who were not, it will be transporting. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (July)

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