This book collects for the first time the black freedom movement writings of Jack O'Dell and restores one of the great unsung heroes of the civil rights movement to his rightful place in the historical record. Climbin' Jacob's Ladder puts O'Dell's historically significant essays in context and reveals how he helped shape the civil rights movement. From his early years in the 1940s National Maritime Union, to his pioneering work in the early 1960s with Martin Luther King Jr., to his international efforts for the Rainbow Coalition during the 1980s, O'Dell was instrumental in the development of the intellectual vision and the institutions that underpinned several decades of anti-racist struggle. He was a member of the outlawed Communist Party in the 1950s and endured red-baiting throughout his long social justice career. This volume is edited by Nikhil Pal Singh and includes a lengthy introduction based on interviews he conducted with O'Dell on his early life and later experiences. Climbin' Jacob's Ladder provides readers with a firm grasp of the civil rights movement's left wing, which O'Dell represents, and illuminates a more radical and global account of twentieth-century US history.
Acknowledgments Introduction "Learn Your Horn": Jack O'Dell and the Long Civil Rights Movement Nikhil Pal Singh Part One: Tracing the Freedomway Report on Voter Registration Work, Southern Christian,Leadership Conference Foundations of Racism in American Life Editorial, Freedomways Special Issue on Mississippi The Threshold of a New Reconstruction A Colonized People The July Rebellions and the "Military State" Climbin' Jacob's Ladder: The Life and Times of the Freedom Movement Charleston's Legacy to the Poor People's Campaign Report of the Acting Executive Director, Southern Christian Leadership Conference A Rock in a Weary Lan': Paul Robeson's Leadership and "The Movement" in the Decade before Montgomery An Assessment: PUSH's First Five Years and Its Next Five On the Transition from Civil Rights to Civil Equality The Rainbow Coalition: Organizational Principles Part Two: Contemporary Reflections Democracy Charter Reclaiming the Second Reconstruction: Democracy, Class, and the Social Transformation of the United States Afterword: Growing Light in a Dark Time Editor's Note Index