JUDGMENT DAYS: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws That Changed America

Nick Kotz, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (522p) ISBN 978-0-618-08825-6

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)

Reviewed on: 11/29/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Show other formats
Paperback - 522 pages - 978-0-618-64183-3
Open Ebook - 544 pages - 978-0-547-88458-5
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