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Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Win the 1960 Election

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The authors of Douglass and Lincoln present fully for the first time the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s imprisonment in the days leading up to the 1960 presidential election and the efforts of three of John F. Kennedy's civil rights staffers who went rogue to free him--a move that changed the face of the Democratic Party and propelled Kennedy to the White House. Less th The authors of Douglass and Lincoln present fully for the first time the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s imprisonment in the days leading up to the 1960 presidential election and the efforts of three of John F. Kennedy's civil rights staffers who went rogue to free him--a move that changed the face of the Democratic Party and propelled Kennedy to the White House. Less than three weeks before the 1960 presidential election, thirty-one-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a sit-in at Rich's Department Store in Atlanta. That day would lead to the first night King had ever spent in jail--and the time that King's family most feared for his life. An earlier, minor traffic ticket served as a pretext for keeping King locked up, and later for a harrowing nighttime transfer to Reidsville, the notorious Georgia state prison where Black inmates worked on chain gangs overseen by violent white guards. While King's imprisonment was decried as a moral scandal in some quarters and celebrated in others, for the two presidential candidates--John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon--it was the ultimate October surprise: an emerging and controversial civil rights leader was languishing behind bars, and the two campaigns raced to decide whether, and how, to respond. Stephen and Paul Kendrick's Nine Days tells the incredible story of what happened next. In 1960, the Civil Rights Movement was growing increasingly inventive and energized while white politicians favored the corrosive tactics of silence and stalling--but an audacious team in the Kennedy campaign's Civil Rights Section (CRS) decided to act. In an election when Black voters seemed poised to split their votes between the candidates, the CRS convinced Kennedy to agitate for King's release, sometimes even going behind his back in their quest to secure his freedom. Over the course of nine extraordinary October days, the leaders of the CRS--pioneering Black journalist Louis Martin, future Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, and Sargent Shriver, the founder of the Peace Corps--worked to tilt a tight election in Kennedy's favor and bring about a revolution in party affiliation whose consequences are still integral to the practice of politics today. Based on fresh interviews, newspaper accounts, and extensive archival research, Nine Days is the first full recounting of an event that changed the course of one of the closest elections in American history. Much more than a political thriller, it is also the story of the first time King refused bail and came to terms with the dangerous course of his mission to change a nation. At once a story of electoral machinations, moral courage, and, ultimately, the triumph of a future president's better angels, Nine Days is a gripping tale with important lessons for our own time.


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The authors of Douglass and Lincoln present fully for the first time the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s imprisonment in the days leading up to the 1960 presidential election and the efforts of three of John F. Kennedy's civil rights staffers who went rogue to free him--a move that changed the face of the Democratic Party and propelled Kennedy to the White House. Less th The authors of Douglass and Lincoln present fully for the first time the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s imprisonment in the days leading up to the 1960 presidential election and the efforts of three of John F. Kennedy's civil rights staffers who went rogue to free him--a move that changed the face of the Democratic Party and propelled Kennedy to the White House. Less than three weeks before the 1960 presidential election, thirty-one-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a sit-in at Rich's Department Store in Atlanta. That day would lead to the first night King had ever spent in jail--and the time that King's family most feared for his life. An earlier, minor traffic ticket served as a pretext for keeping King locked up, and later for a harrowing nighttime transfer to Reidsville, the notorious Georgia state prison where Black inmates worked on chain gangs overseen by violent white guards. While King's imprisonment was decried as a moral scandal in some quarters and celebrated in others, for the two presidential candidates--John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon--it was the ultimate October surprise: an emerging and controversial civil rights leader was languishing behind bars, and the two campaigns raced to decide whether, and how, to respond. Stephen and Paul Kendrick's Nine Days tells the incredible story of what happened next. In 1960, the Civil Rights Movement was growing increasingly inventive and energized while white politicians favored the corrosive tactics of silence and stalling--but an audacious team in the Kennedy campaign's Civil Rights Section (CRS) decided to act. In an election when Black voters seemed poised to split their votes between the candidates, the CRS convinced Kennedy to agitate for King's release, sometimes even going behind his back in their quest to secure his freedom. Over the course of nine extraordinary October days, the leaders of the CRS--pioneering Black journalist Louis Martin, future Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, and Sargent Shriver, the founder of the Peace Corps--worked to tilt a tight election in Kennedy's favor and bring about a revolution in party affiliation whose consequences are still integral to the practice of politics today. Based on fresh interviews, newspaper accounts, and extensive archival research, Nine Days is the first full recounting of an event that changed the course of one of the closest elections in American history. Much more than a political thriller, it is also the story of the first time King refused bail and came to terms with the dangerous course of his mission to change a nation. At once a story of electoral machinations, moral courage, and, ultimately, the triumph of a future president's better angels, Nine Days is a gripping tale with important lessons for our own time.

30 review for Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.'s Life and Win the 1960 Election

  1. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    I am fairly certain that I was taught the story of Martin Luther King’s arrest in the weeks prior to the 1960 presidential election at some point in my educational past, but, as much of history gets portrayed in textbooks, the moment was cast through broad brush strokes mostly aimed at highlighting the moral compass of candidate John F Kennedy than anything else. Paul and Stephen Kendrick have written a compelling and utterly readable account of the nine days that encompassed MLK’s arrest at a l I am fairly certain that I was taught the story of Martin Luther King’s arrest in the weeks prior to the 1960 presidential election at some point in my educational past, but, as much of history gets portrayed in textbooks, the moment was cast through broad brush strokes mostly aimed at highlighting the moral compass of candidate John F Kennedy than anything else. Paul and Stephen Kendrick have written a compelling and utterly readable account of the nine days that encompassed MLK’s arrest at a lunch counter sit-in in Atlanta Georgia and subsequent threat of prolonged detention in Reidsville prison (known for its particularly violent treatment of black inmates), as well as, the political machinations going on in the background to determine which candidate, Nixon or JFK, would grab and run with the moment to support MLK on the record. The authors posit that the nine days led to a turning point in political identity for black Americans who, prior to the election, majority supported Republican candidates due to the support for segregation found amongst white, southern Democrats. Indeed, JFK’s appearance of support (mostly due to a less than two-minute phone conversation with Coretta Scott King during MLK’s detention) seemingly galvanized a sea change in black voters despite the fact that Nixon had previously been considered the civil rights candidate (and actually had a history/relationship with MLK, unlike JKF who hardly knew him at all). The sea change would only grow deeper as the years progressed and has played an equal, if not more important, role in the latest election (how little things have changed). The book is also an ode to the three men who made it all happen – journalist Louis Martin (often overlooked in history’s retelling of events), Sargent Shriver (JFK’s brother-in-law and eventual founder of the Peace Corps), and civil rights attorney Harris Wofford (who eventually worked as senator of PA before being unseated by the human equivalent of a gnat, Rick Santorum). The three men were all true believers in MLK and civil rights – walking the walk while others in the campaign (namely, John and Bobby Kennedy) were not too keen to do much more than talk. The authors delve deep into the various twists and turns and machinations the men took to get their candidate to take the stand they all believed in so wholeheartedly. The work of these men is worthy to be engrained in the historical record. It’s all a pretty riveting read, to say the least. Thank you to netgalley, the authors, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Very well done and comprehensive account of what may have been the turning point of not only the 1960 election, but the drive for desegregation and civil rights in the deep South. Richard Nixon’s ignorance and inaction with regard to the Martin Luther King incident also likely played a part in his defeat. Kennedy gets credit for saving King here, but it’s really the work of Sargent Shriver, Louis Martin, and Harris Wofford who were the brains behind this. And although I knew the Kennedys were op Very well done and comprehensive account of what may have been the turning point of not only the 1960 election, but the drive for desegregation and civil rights in the deep South. Richard Nixon’s ignorance and inaction with regard to the Martin Luther King incident also likely played a part in his defeat. Kennedy gets credit for saving King here, but it’s really the work of Sargent Shriver, Louis Martin, and Harris Wofford who were the brains behind this. And although I knew the Kennedys were opportunistic politicians, I did not, until now, realize their comfort with segregationists at that time. Nixon, in my opinion the most vile person to inhabit the White House (until 2017), showed his true colors during those 9 days. The epilogue confirms my suspicions. It was also both amazing and disturbing to read the level of hate directed towards Black people in the Deep South, but after what we saw in 2020, sad to see that it still exists somewhat. This book made me admire more Martin Luther King, dropped the Kennedys down a few notches, and boosted my opinion of Shriver and Wofford. I did not know of Louis Martin until this book. A very good read, in all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    It is hard to review a book when it covers so many topics. Admittedly, they are all intertwined into systemic racism, but I was incredibly disappointed to see how much plain ol' politics played in people decisions throughout the book. Drilled down, the premise is that MLK was in prison for driving with an out of state drivers license. (Is that even an actual crime?) The book follows how he gets there, how he gets out, and how these events all play into the 1960 presidential election. The authors It is hard to review a book when it covers so many topics. Admittedly, they are all intertwined into systemic racism, but I was incredibly disappointed to see how much plain ol' politics played in people decisions throughout the book. Drilled down, the premise is that MLK was in prison for driving with an out of state drivers license. (Is that even an actual crime?) The book follows how he gets there, how he gets out, and how these events all play into the 1960 presidential election. The authors use this as the basis for a detailed view of the two political party's stand on racism and racial equality and how this lightening rod moment helped transform the parties into what we see today. Several times throughout the book I saw glimpses of current politics. How Black voters had a major impact on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and the balance of power in the Senate. How Whites court the Black vote but carefully so as to not alienate White voters and then to ignore the needs of those Black voters. And several times I wonder how the events of 1960 would have been different in today's world of cellphones and Twitter. The level of background was perfect. It didn't assume the reader was fully aware of events at the time but also was overly detailed and repetitive. I did feel that the foreshadowing throughout the book was a bit unnecessary. Any reader would be sufficiently engaged and not need a teaser to turn the page! Thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Umar Lee

    A very well-written and informative read about the 1960 presidential election, the Kennedy and Nixon campaigns, and the role Martin Luther King and his incarceration played in that election. I honestly had no idea that the call from JFK to Coretta Scott King acted to sway the election to JFK via the Black vote. Prior to that, as the author illustrates, Nixon had been popular in the Black community with emissaries such as Jackie Robinson and those such as Martin Luther King Sr who didn't feel com A very well-written and informative read about the 1960 presidential election, the Kennedy and Nixon campaigns, and the role Martin Luther King and his incarceration played in that election. I honestly had no idea that the call from JFK to Coretta Scott King acted to sway the election to JFK via the Black vote. Prior to that, as the author illustrates, Nixon had been popular in the Black community with emissaries such as Jackie Robinson and those such as Martin Luther King Sr who didn't feel comfortable voting for a Catholic. This book offers a unique look at King, his civil-rights activities in Atlanta, and his racist opponents in Georgia. The Black vote would permanently swing hard to the Democratic Party after the 1960 election.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vnunez-Ms_luv2read

    This is a brilliant book about Martin Luther King and the days after his arrest in Georgia after a sit in protest. JFK and Nixon is also a part of these nine day’s. There are other characters that are presented and their role during this time. This book presents so much that may not be known and should be part of a curriculum. I am not sure if it should be high school or college, but one if not both. In the meantime, I thank the authors for this quality read. We can read it now and we all should This is a brilliant book about Martin Luther King and the days after his arrest in Georgia after a sit in protest. JFK and Nixon is also a part of these nine day’s. There are other characters that are presented and their role during this time. This book presents so much that may not be known and should be part of a curriculum. I am not sure if it should be high school or college, but one if not both. In the meantime, I thank the authors for this quality read. We can read it now and we all should. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott G

    People today may find it hard to believe a man could go to jail for a licence violation. Or a man could fear being killed in jail. You really have to understand the times to know this could happen. I will have to do more reading about the 1960 election. I know the Kennedy victory was razor thin. But to think the black vote could turn from one Party to another within 9 days warrants further study. Intriguing part was the back room Political machinations that were happening always concious of losing People today may find it hard to believe a man could go to jail for a licence violation. Or a man could fear being killed in jail. You really have to understand the times to know this could happen. I will have to do more reading about the 1960 election. I know the Kennedy victory was razor thin. But to think the black vote could turn from one Party to another within 9 days warrants further study. Intriguing part was the back room Political machinations that were happening always concious of losing Votes Or gaining votes! Still a good read

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    I loved this book. Maybe because the key firgures inspired much of my life And even the inside baseball stuff filled in gaps in what I knew. But more because, even in the midst of tragedy and suffereing, there is hope from these figures. This of course would not surprise Dr. King nor the Kennedy brothers. Credit is given to several lesser know stalwarts of decency, perseverance, and true belief: Louis Martin, Harris Wofford, Sargent Shriver, Donald Hallowell and many more. You may find yourself I loved this book. Maybe because the key firgures inspired much of my life And even the inside baseball stuff filled in gaps in what I knew. But more because, even in the midst of tragedy and suffereing, there is hope from these figures. This of course would not surprise Dr. King nor the Kennedy brothers. Credit is given to several lesser know stalwarts of decency, perseverance, and true belief: Louis Martin, Harris Wofford, Sargent Shriver, Donald Hallowell and many more. You may find yourself crying through the last two chapters but the tears are probably redemptive.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I read a glowing review of this book in the Tribune, and picked it up from the library on MLK day. I found it to be very well written, but there is SO MUCH detail given - I felt like some of the important messages and themes got lost in the minutia of the details. Still, I learned a lot, and am glad I read it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris Carson

    Terrific read. Fast paced, makes you think you’re in the room (or cell) at each step of the way. Thanks fir sharing the story!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    https://bookandfilmglobe.com/nonficti... https://bookandfilmglobe.com/nonficti...

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

  13. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Betsy Rossen Elliot

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Ritter

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Schouela

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alisha Welch

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ann Shibayama

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike Naple

  26. 4 out of 5

    Randolph

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jodie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

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