In his final book, Where Do We Go From Here (1967), Martin Luther King, Jr., warned that the struggle for black equality had moved into a more difficult phase that would test the moral commitments of white America to democracy. King commented that, for most whites, the battles over school desegregation and the Civil Rights Act had merely "been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality." King's warning about the thinness of the country's commitment to democracy was combined with a profound optimism that ending poverty and creating a truly free society was within reach-that Americans might at last choose justice. His optimism was consonant with and informed by social and policy analysis of the time. Three years earlier, the Johnson administration had launched its War on Poverty, and in Where Do We Go From Here, King quoted the analysis of Hyman Bookbinder—from President Lyndon B. Johnson's Office of Economic Opportunity—that "the poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate."
Copyright © Thad Williamson. This chapter first appeared in Fifty Years since MLK.
Edited by Brandon M. Terry
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Williamson, Thad. "The Almost Inevitable Failure of Justice." In Fifty Years since MLK, edited by Brandon M. Terry, 112-124. Cambridge: Boston Review/Boston Critic, 2018.