A Q&A with David Stovall: I’m born and raised in Chicago, and have witnessed the charter phenomenon emerge from a community-based approach to a corporate conglomerate model that is grounded in theories of deficit surrounding Black and Latino youth. From discipline policies to curriculum, it sickens me to see schools that think Black and Latino youth are to be “fixed” by aspiring to what is perceived as White, middle-class values.
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By Helene Atwan: Is it only in April that we’re supposed to appreciate poetry? After all, as this April in New England is proving beyond a doubt, it is the cruelest month. But maybe that’s why we need poetry . . . Now, more than ever, we’ve discovered that we need poetry not just to delight and uplift us, but to teach us, to show us.
A Q&A with Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and Daniel Cooper: Both of us worked on Chicago’s West side for years, focusing on several different issues. But all roads eventually led us to mass incarceration. Whether we were working on housing, workforce development or youth development, we began to see how the justice system impacted all these issues. They were inextricably connected.
National Poetry Month celebrates the power of the word in verse. Condensing language to its most vivid and lyrical effect, poetry speaks straight to the heart, and in verse, poets unveil to us the unseen beauty and terror of our world. There is so much out there to enjoy, but where to start? We reached out to some of our beloved poets to ask them about their favorite poets and poetry collections.
By Scott W. Stern: Silence was not common in the contentious chambers of the House of Representatives, but the wee hours of Friday, April 6, 1917, were different. This was an epic moment: exactly 101 years ago today, the representatives were voting on war. Beginning at 2:45 am, as the clerk of the House called each member’s name, one after the other, scarcely a sound broke the tense stillness, except representatives calling “Aye” or “Nay.” Their votes echoed hollowly through the House’s grand galleries, filled with curious onlookers, many still finely attired from evening parties hours earlier.
By Jonathan Rosenblum: The revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been slain twice: First, by an assassin’s bullet fifty years ago, and a second time, by the political, economic, and cultural elites of our time. They have reduced his radical teachings to gauzy notions of justice and equality, seeking to soothe their guilty consciences and hope the rest of us don’t look too closely.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry and Jeanne Theoharis: I wrote this book, History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times, because my editor, reinforced by friends and colleagues after Trump’s election, argued that the public needed reminding of how and why resistance has succeeded and or failed in the past. And I felt I could provide that based on my experience in several movements and through my historical research. Though history does not repeat itself exactly, perhaps we can learn something from history or at least be encouraged.
A Q&A with Joseph Rosenbloom: What urgent mission brought MLK to Memphis in 1968 even as he was on the verge of launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC? What happened in Memphis before King was fatally shot there on April 4? Redemption answers the questions more vividly and completely than any other published account.
Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we honor his legacy. We reached out to some of our authors and staff members to reflect on the impact of his global vision for social justice and his tireless work in the civil rights movement. We share their commemorative responses with you below.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental ﬂight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magniﬁcence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
In the thirty-one hours leading up to his assassination on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was under extraordinary pressure. He was trying to redeem his reputation as a nonviolent leader of the civil rights movement after a march he’d led days earlier turned into a riot. At the same time, he was just launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Memphis, TN. Former investigative reporter Joseph Rosenbloom vividly recreates his final hours in Redemption: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. While revealing the physical and emotional toll the movement was taking on King, Rosenbloom introduces us to the cast of characters surrounding him. Meet the people who played key roles in the fateful hours of our nation’s foremost civil rights leader.
By Donald Collins: One of my favorite photos of all time is a bewitching 1970 image of a young queer person reclining on the edge of a fountain. Her large coat is pulled down to her forearms, splayed dramatically beneath her. She’s wearing flared slacks, boots, a white tunic-like shirt, and a medallion. Her dark hair is short and boxy; she’s giving photographer Kay Tobin a familiar, clever smile. You can probably see the photo on this page, but it feels almost more meaningful to describe it. I also have a history-crush on her.
A Q&A with Jay Parini: I felt that I had not quite gone far enough into the details of my own Christian practice in Jesus: The Human Face of God. I wanted to dig deeper into the actual world of Christian worship and Christian thinking. I also wanted to organize my own thoughts on Christianity in ways that could prove helpful to others who are struggling with issues of faith. It’s also a teaching book. My own students know so little about Christian practice. I thought this book could introduce many to key ideas.
In the wake of the nationwide “March For Our Lives” events across the country this Saturday, Beacon Press is pleased to announce that all profits from this year’s print and ebook sales of two of our titles: “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” And Other Myths about Guns and Gun Control and Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence will be donated to both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Peace Center of Connecticut, Inc.
By Larissa Pienkowski: As the recent Women’s March(es), #MeToo movement, and countless global strikes and walkouts have made clear, women all over the world are responding to a globally fraught climate loudly and fearlessly. Some of these women take action through grassroots organizing and direct-action tactics, and some define survivorship for themselves through the arts—and still others resist by dedicating their careers and lives to fields that have been traditionally dominated by men.
By Ben Mattlin: When I heard that Prof. Stephen Hawking had died, at seventy-six (March 14), my first question was, What of? The media and general public seemed to assume that his disability had finally caught up with him. Perhaps it had, but I wanted to make sure. I have a similar disability. Mine is spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a progressive neuromuscular weakness that’s practically indistinguishable from Hawking’s "motor neurone [sic.] disease," as the UK’s Guardian newspaper put it (most other sources dubbed his a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS).
By David Bacon: Paola was standing outside the West County Detention Facility, a prison in Richmond, California for 150 to 300 people awaiting deportation, when she got the phone call. She’d been fearing it for days. Florencio, her husband, was in another detention center in Arizona, calling to tell her that la migra (immigration agents) had caught him in the desert, walking north with a dozen others. Paola (not her real name) hadn’t spoken to Florencio for several weeks, not since the day before he crawled into the luggage compartment of a bus in Puebla in southern Mexico. The bus, he hoped, would take him close to the US border.
By Philip C. Winslow: On a hot summer morning in 1954, when I was eleven years old, I saw my first human death by gunshot. The victim was a boy about my age. He had been playing with a .22 caliber rifle thought not to be loaded, I was told. The gun discharged, the bullet passed through his neck, rupturing the left carotid artery, and he bled out. I saw him only afterward. I never knew his name, the circumstances, nor anything about him or his family. But sixty-four years later, I clearly recall the stillness in death, his ashen face, the color of his hair, and the small entry wound in the left side of his neck. The death was ruled accidental, or, as they say these days, unintentional. Shaken, that night I had a long discussion with my mother about the unfairness of death, and about the consequences of the negligent handling of firearms.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As I came in tonight, I turned around and said to Ralph Abernathy, “They really have a great movement here in Memphis.” You are demonstrating something here that needs to be demonstrated all over our country. You are demonstrating that we can stick together and you are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down. I’ve always said that if we are to solve the tremendous problems that we face we are going to have to unite beyond the religious line, and I’m so happy to know that you have done that in this movement in a supportive role. We have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, members of the Church of God in Christ, and members of the Church of Christ in God, we are all together, and all of the other denominations and religious bodies that I have not mentioned.
By Lyn Mikel Brown | On the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida, students all across the country walked out of class. They stood in silence for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 students and faculty who died in what should be unimaginable circumstances.