Reviews for Waking from the Dream : The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Booklist Reviews 2013 October #2
The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 left the civil rights movement in search of a strong leader and lively debate about how his legacy would be remembered. Civil rights scholar Chappell chronicles the fits and starts of continued efforts at civil rights that are uncelebrated but nonetheless pushed forward King's agenda. Among those efforts are the campaign for a national holiday to honor King, fair housing legislation and the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill (though the original intentions of both were watered down), and Jesse Jackson's two presidential campaigns. Chappell details the contentious debates on nationalism versus integration and the value of a single leader versus institutional viability, which led to the short-lived National Black Political Convention and the more enduring Congressional Black Caucus. Chappell details the failed efforts as much as the successes, highlighting the valuable lessons learned as groups and individuals renewed their strategies and determination to move forward. Emphasizing the rarity of such history-changing acts as the civil rights legislation, he notes that the struggle for equality is incremental and eternal. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2014 February
Turning points on the road to equality

African Americans have been struggling for independence, equality and respect from the moment they were brought to the New World in chains. As that struggle continues today, it’s instructive to look back on our turbulent history to learn from the past and hopefully improve on the future. The five books featured here can help us to do just that, examining historical themes that serve as milestones on the journey of progress.


It’s ironic that Captain Amasa Delano was on the high seas in pursuit of seals when he came upon what appeared to be a slave ship. Hunting for seals and slaves were equally predatory professions. And while seal hunting was a lucrative industry, the slave trade would prove to be even more profitable. Not that Delano would grasp the irony; he was an idealistic, anti-slavery New Englander. And when he boarded the battered vessel, his idealism would leave him vulnerable to a deception that had deadly consequences.

This page-turning history lesson is found in The Empire of Necessity by Greg Grandin, author of the acclaimed Fordlandia. Delano’s ship happened upon a distressed Spanish vessel one day in 1805. It appeared to be merely a lost slave ship. In reality, the 70 West Africans on board, seeking their freedom from slavery, had commandeered the ship. The clever slaves forced the Spanish captain to go along with the ruse. Delano believed the charade for nine hours, but when he discovered he’d been tricked, he ordered his men to attack the West Africans.

While Grandin’s narrative is a gripping read on its own, the underlying theme is profound: The deception in this incident is symbolic of America’s willingness to ignore the hypocisy of slavery in a supposedly free society. Unfortunately, it would take the United States another 60 years before it would acknowledge the falsehood.


When the Civil War ended slavery in 1865, the U.S. embarked on an effort to provide reparations to Southern landowners and expanded rights to newly freed slaves, including suffrage and education. That policy, called Reconstruction, was a noble idea that failed.

In The Wars of Reconstruction, Le Moyne College history professor Douglas R. Egerton details the myriad factors that led to the collapse of Reconstruction: the replacement of Abraham Lincoln with an inept Andrew Johnson; Southern resistance to the granting of equal rights to blacks; and the premature withdrawal of federal troops. But Egerton contends that an ongoing pattern of violence in the South doomed Reconstruction from the beginning. “Reconstruction . . . was violently overthrown by men who had fought slavery during the Civil War and continued that battle as guerrilla partisans,” Egerton writes.

The Wars of Reconstruction offers a fresh perspective on why the grand experiment of Reconstruction failed and how it took nearly a century afterward for African Americans to gain any semblance of equal rights in the South.


In the early 1900s, many African Americans—shackled by an inability to earn a living or cast a vote—began a Great Migration from the rural South to the industrialized cities of the North. Jobs in the car factories of Detroit and steel mills of Chicago beckoned, while also fostering a black middle class. For the first time, African Americans earned enough money to own homes, buy cars and spend money on entertainment. One of the people they went to see was trumpeter Louis Armstrong.

In Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism, Duke University music professor Thomas Brothers chronicles Armstrong’s own Great Migration. After gaining notoriety as a musician in New Orleans, Armstrong heard a siren song in 1922 calling him north to Chicago, where there was a thriving black nightclub scene on the city’s South Side. There, Armstrong honed his crafts playing alongside jazz greats such as King Oliver, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Cab Calloway.

While this biography highlights the maturation of a great entertainer during the Jazz Age, it parallels the evolution of many African Americans in the early 20th century as they earned respectable livelihoods and carved out their own cultural enclaves in the North.


Unfortunately, the prosperity of the Jazz Age gave way to the Great Depression, and over the next several decades, many African Americans suffered from poverty and segregation in Northern cities. Some returned to the South, only to encounter further discrimination. The hatred experienced by a race was crystallized in the life of James Meredith, a trailblazer best known as the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi. Meredith is the central figure in Down to the Crossroads, an intriguing new book about the civil rights movement by historian Aram Goudsouzian.

Down to the Crossroads focuses on the so-called Meredith March, which the civil rights leader began on June 5, 1966, to register black voters in Mississippi. He started the march in Memphis with the goal of reaching Jackson, Mississippi, but he was soon wounded by a mysterious gunman. While Meredith recovered from his wounds, other black leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, traveled to Mississippi to continue the Meredith March.

Goudsouzian uses the march to capture the divergent leadership styles of the era’s civil rights leaders. There was the defiant Carmichael, who led marchers in “black power” chants, while King preached nonviolence. This single march, captured in detail in Down to the Crossroads, gives readers a clearer understanding of the tensions that often dominated the civil rights movement. 


When King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, some thought it was the end of the dream of equality for African Americans. In his new book, Waking from the Dream, David L. Chappell turns the spotlight onto those who stepped in to continue the cause in King’s wake, albeit in a less unified fashion.

Waking from the Dream describes the attempts by black leaders such as Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson to further the movement, only to see the struggle slowed by politics and in-fighting. Despite the splintered movement, Chappell details how this new generation of leaders helped gain the passage of the Fair Housing Act and launched the presidential campaign of Jackson.

While it would take another 40 years before Americans would vote in their first black president, Waking from the Dream makes a strong case that Barack Obama would never have been elected were it not for the efforts of the leaders who followed in King’s wake.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2014 July
Over the next two years, considerable attention will be paid to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and to Martin Luther King, the figure most closely associated with those laws. Chappell (Univ. of Oklahoma) reminds readers, however, that the movement for racial justice continued for 20 years after 1965 and involved persons and organizations that deserve as much attention as King. Covering 1968 through 1988, Chappell concentrates his story on the efforts of black activists to push beyond the defeat of legal segregation and disenfranchisement to challenge the two obstacles that proved far more difficult to overcome in the long run: desegregated housing and equal employment opportunities. Beginning with the National Black Political Convention held in 1972 and concentrating on the career of Jesse Jackson and the difficulty of replacing King as the face of the movement, profiling the fight for the Equal Opportunity and Full Employment Act of 1976, and examining Jackson's historic 1984 presidential run, Chappell demonstrates that community-based activism was far more important to the civil rights movement than King's rhetoric, inspiring though it was. Chappell reminds readers that much work remains. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. D. O. Cullen Collin College Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 November #1
Astute contemporary history of the civil rights movement in the years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Though many books have focused on the period from 1954 to 1968, bookended by Brown v. Board of Education and King's tragic death, there has been less emphasis on the period after 1968. Chappell (Modern American History/Univ. of Oklahoma; A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow, 2004) helps to provide a corrective by delivering what could be considered a series of linked essays covering a range of themes on the continuing fight for racial equality in the last four-plus decades. Beginning with the largely overlooked Civil Rights Act of 1968, or Fair Housing Act, which Congress enacted just a week after King's death, Chappell shows how for a few years the movement seemed unmoored and leaderless even as there were real efforts to continue the work of the so-called "Classical Phase" of the struggle. By the late 1970s and into the '80s, issues such as full employment and the establishment of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day took central stage. During this time period, former King confidant Jesse Jackson worked tirelessly to become the pre-eminent black leader in America. Chappell takes Jackson seriously as a historical figure, reminding readers that his two presidential campaigns in the '80s were more than just sideshows. This book will hopefully serve to push other historians to pick up where Chappell has left off. The author oddly leaves out any serious discussion of the American anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, and he overlooks significant developments in the history of Black Power and the Black Panther Party. Nonetheless, as a foray into still largely unexplored terrain, Chappell's book is vital. The movement did not die with King. Chappell effectively shows how the struggle continued even as the message seemed to fragment. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 March #1

Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, this revisionist work has a double-edged title. It examines not only the Civil Rights struggle but the struggle of many--activists, scholars, and more--to control King's legacy and image. Leading civil rights authority Chappell, who wrote the highly regarded A Stone of Hope, is set to make us think.

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Library Journal Express Reviews
Signed into law shortly after Martin Luther King's death, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act) is seen as King's last great achievement, even the last achievement of the civil rights movement.The post-King struggle for civil rights is typically depicted as lacking inspiration and being an endless debate over the scope of affirmative action. Chappell (modern American history, Univ. of Oklahoma; A Stone of Hope) paints a different picture of the continued struggle for equality. Focusing on legislative efforts in the 1970s further to empower blacks, the signing into law of a national holiday for Martin Luther King in 1983, the two presidential runs of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Chappell depicts a civil rights movement, in victory and defeat, that expanded its reach and added to the meaning of freedom in America. His book might better have focused on the legislative wins of the 1980s, and his narrative is not cohesive. He ends with a discussion of how even revelations of adultery and plagiarism could not eclipse King's accomplishments or tarnish his legacy. Verdict Chappell adds to the literature on the post-King years. Recommended to readers interested in post-King civil rights history and later 20th-century America.--Jason Martin, Stetson Univ. Lib., DeLand, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #2

"After King's death," University of Oklahoma historian Chappell (A Stone of Hope) asserts, "his survivors in the movement had some lasting achievements that deserve recognition," five of which he focuses on here: the Civil Rights Act of 1968; the National Black Political Conventions of 1972 and 1974; the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978; the establishment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. Chappell's assessment is mixed. For example, he asserts that the Civil Rights Act "had no memorably singular, decisive world-changing effect." In delineating the National Political Conventions, he concludes that the "quest for black political solidarity aground." Legislative achievements represent the more solid successes, and Jackson's candidacy, he concludes, "had been for better or for worse at the center of a decade of renewed advancement and momentum in civil rights." Chappell diligently studies the internal organizational machinations and the external press reportage; he pays welcome attention to Coretta Scott King's role in the "post-King era." In a rather dark conclusion, Chappell details Rev. King's "extramarital affairs and academic dishonesty." 16-page photo insert. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC