In celebration of the MLK Memorial Dedication, we are also giving away books by Dr. King. Enter for your chance to win hardcover editions of recent titles released by Beacon Press: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Why We Can't Wait, The Trumpet of Conscience, "All Labor Has Dignity," and MLK: In Word and Image. One grand prize winner will receive ALL SIX BOOKS. Five winners will receive one book of their choice. For more information and to enter, see the Beacon Press website.
Today's excerpt is from All Labor Has Dignity. People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform. As we struggle with massive unemployment, a staggering racial wealth gap, and the near collapse of a financial system that puts profits before people, King's prophetic writings and speeches underscore his relevance for today. They help us imagine King anew: as a human rights leader whose commitment to unions and an end to poverty was a crucial part of his civil rights agenda.
“It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of that practice,” he said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.” -- Daniel Ellsberg in the New York Times, June 8, 2011
Rev. Robert N. West, UUA President, and Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) hold a press conference on Nov. 5, 1971 concerning Beacon Press' publication of "The Pentagon Papers" and ongoing harassment of the UUA by the FBI. Photo courtesy Robert N. West.
Forty years ago this month, the New York Times began publishing excerpts from what has been popularly referred to as "The Pentagon Papers," and officially known as "the Report of the O.S.D. Vietnam Task Force." The papers, which were smuggled out of the RAND corporation by Daniel Ellsberg, were published a few months later by Beacon Press as the Senator Gravel Edition of The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking in Vietnam. The story of their publication is a gripping tale, one that involved heroic stands by Ellsberg, Senator Mike Gravel, Beacon Press director Gobin Stair, and UUA President Robert West against immense pressure from the Nixon administration.
It has taken four decades for the government to officially release the papers. We aren't worried here about the new, "official" publication affecting sales: the five volumes-- a whopping 7,000 pages-- have long been out of print, and were never a commercial "success." In fact the cost of producing the books combined with the associated legal fees was a huge financial burden for the press. Loans from the Unitarian Universalist Association and a significant donation from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, combined with smaller donations from supporters and from other publishing houses (led by a $2,500 donation from Random House), helped allay the enormous expense. But the reasons for publishing the papers were never financial:
In 2002, during an interview with Susan Wilson in preparation for Beacon’s 150th anniversary, Stair referred to The Pentagon Papers as “a test of our purpose,” before concluding, “We were publishing what needed to be published." (From "Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers" by Allison Trzop)
We aren't sure why it took forty years for the government to declassify these papers, but we look back at that moment in the history of Beacon Press with great pride. Subpoenas, FBI investigations, and even calls from President Nixon himself deterred neither Beacon Press nor the Unitarian Universalist Association from doing what was right, and it is our goal today to function by the same principles that guided those brave decisions.
During the Civil War, the Press of the American Unitarian Association—the fledging publishing house founded in 1854 that grew into Beacon Press—published a tract called A Soldier's Companion.
This handy booklet, intended to supply Union soldiers with solace and inspiration, included hymns, anthems, poems, and practical instructions. Some 57,000 were distributed, free of charge, during the course of the war.
Amid songs and hymns about freedom and temperance were allusions linking the American Revolution—the patriotic fight for independence from England—with freedom for all mankind. References to abolition and the dreaded fugitive slave laws were scattered throughout the booklet. The poem “Wipe out, O God! The Nation’s Sin,” for example, warned, “There is no liberty for them / Who make their brethren slave.” Songs like “Arouse, New England Sons” invoked,“Free! While the very homes you’ve made / Beside your fathers’ graves/ Are pillaged, if ye dare to aid / The panting, flying slave?” Luminaries such as Harriet Beecher Stowe altered classics to fit the cause; her lyrics to “America, the Beautiful” included the lines “Let Freedom’s banner wave / Till there be not a slave.” A Soldier’s Companion also contained practical advice to men in the field. Soldiers were warned, for example, to “sleep as much as you can,” avoid “all use of ardent spirits,” and “wear flannel all over in all weathers.” (From A Brief History of Beacon Press by Susan Wilson.)
In the years since, many Beacon Press books have examined the issues faced by soldiers at war and upon their return home.
During the course of the war in Iraq, many veterans have become increasingly disillusioned, and increasingly vocal. Many began seeing the war as damaging for the country, and especially for the men and women fighting overseas. In My River Home, Marcus Eriksen, a veteran of the Gulf War, charts his personal shift from proud Marine to self-destructive veteran to engaged activist protesting the injustices of the Iraq War with Veterans for Peace. Eriksen made sense of this transition only after a fascinating adventure traveling through the heart of America, down the entire length of the great Mississippi River on a homemade raft.
More American women have fought and died in Iraq than in any war since World War Two, yet as soldiers they are still painfully alone. In Iraq, only one in ten troops is a woman, and she often serves in a unit with few other women or none at all. This isolation, along with the military's deep-seated hostility toward women, causes problems that many female soldiers find as hard to cope with as war itself: degradation, sexual persecution by their comrades, and loneliness, instead of the camaraderie that every soldier depends on for comfort and survival. As one female soldier said, "I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine."
In The Lonely Soldier, Benedict tells the stories of five women who fought in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. She follows them from their childhoods to their enlistments, then takes them through their training, to war and home again, all the while setting the war's events in context.
Berkeley peace activist Sophia Raday never imagined she would fall in love with an Oakland police officer and major in the Army Reserve, much less marry one. Barrett is loving and loyal, but in his world a threat lies around every corner, and so he asks Sophia to stay in Condition Yellow—always aware that her life may be in danger soon. Sophia's heart-wrenching yet humorous narrative about coming to a new understanding of peace and partnership gives hope for healing the deep divisions in our country, from the front lines of a most unusual union.
As the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Aidan Delgado was in the process of enlisting in the U.S. Army Reserve. Two years later, he arrived in Iraq with the 320th Military Police Company. As he witnessed firsthand the brutality of the occupation and the abuse of unarmed Iraqis, Delgado came to believe that war was immoral and ran counter to his Buddhist principles. He turned in his weapon and began the long process of securing conscientious objector status. His book is urgent reading for anyone who cares about American ideals overseas, and for all those who understand why peace is patriotic.
In the early 1970s, Penny Coleman married Daniel, a young Vietnam veteran and fellow photographer. Soon, Daniel became deeply troubled, falling victim to multiple addictions and becoming strangely insecure. He suffered from what we now call posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After Coleman left him, he committed suicide.
Struggling to understand Daniel's experience, Coleman began investigating the history of PTSD; she found clear cases of the disorder as far back as the Civil War. In Flashback, Coleman deftly weaves psychology and military, political, oral, and cultural history to trace the experience of PTSD in the military up through the Vietnam War. She then focuses on Vietnam to show why this war in particular led to such a high number of PTSD cases, many of which ended tragically in suicide. Like the soldiers listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, these men are casualties of war.
With record numbers of American soldiers returning from the Middle East already suffering from PTSD, Flashback provides a necessary lesson on the real tragedy of battle for soldiers and their families, something that continues long after the war ends.
This past week, Beacon authors have been very active out in the world, putting a human face on immigration and talking topics spanning a wide gamut of social justice issues, including: global population, feminism, consumer choices, education, and so much more. Visit our homepage to see the many books on immigrant rights that Beacon has published. And, if you're in or around Boston, learn more about the May Day March, which will begin on Boston Common at noon on Saturday.
WNBC New York talks to Stacy and Steve Trebing about their successful struggle to save their daughter with a "savoir sibling." The family's moving story is chronicled by author Beth Whitehouse in her new book The Match.
Author Bob Moses champions a constitutional amendment to guarantee quality education, the topic of his forthcoming book Quality Education as a Constitutional Right, in The Nationarticle about the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Hear Dana Sachs talk about the nearly 3,000 "supposedly orphaned" children swept into "Operation Babylift" on NHPR's "Word of Mouth."
In the weeks leading up to the fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975, nearly three thousand babies and children were airlifted out of South Vietnam, often under chaotic and dangerous circumstances. Dubbed "Operation Babylift," the mission was a highly publicized U.S. backed plan to evacuate Vietnamese orphans and bring them to America for adoption.
In The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam, Dana Sachs, who has written about Vietnam for 20 years, draws on extensive research and countless interviews in both the U.S. and Vietnam to offer a fresh look at this complex and often controversial mission. She traces the stories of adoptees, including a woman whose Vietnamese mother managed to find her twenty years later, and looks at why there was so little oversight and such sparse documentation attached to the movement of these children, many of whom, it was discovered, weren't orphans at all and were desperate to go home.
This week, in the lead up to the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on Friday, Sachs was interviewed about Operation Babylift and how its lesson can be applied to the current debate about international adoption: