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Selma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.

Selma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. By Daniel S. Lucks. (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2014. Pp. 366. $35.00.)

Many scholars have characterized the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements as two of the greatest social protest campaigns in the history of the United States. The escalation of US involvement in the Vietnam War in 1965 pushed the civil rights movement and the accompanying legislation to the sidelines very quickly. This process was no small task, considering that the civil rights movement had dominated many months of the presidencies of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. These two movements became interconnected when, on 6 January 1966, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to articulate a coherent anti-Vietnam War stance when its leadership vocally opposed conscription of thousands of African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people. (This occurred when racial segregation, outward discrimination, and harsh violence were still daily occurrences for most black Americans.) Until recently, these topics have received only scant attention from most scholars. The author seeks to help fill this gap.

In Selma to Saigon, veteran scholar Daniel S. Lucks examines the impact of the Vietnam War on the evolving civil rights movement and subsequently argues that "the Vietnam War had a corrosive impact on the civil rights movement and adversely affected African American citizens and soldiers" because "African Americans had to choose sides" (2). Next, the author claims that the various responses of African Americans to the Vietnam War cannot "be divorced from ... [the] Cold War context" (4). Finally, Lucks contends that Martin Luther King Jr.'s relationship "with the Johnson administration [was shattered] over the Vietnam War" (7).

The study is divided both chronologically and thematically as it examines numerous intriguing topics in great detail, such as how the Vietnam War helped to destroy the biracial alliance that the New Left, SNCC, and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had formed during the early stages of the civil rights movement. The author also shows how President Johnson's escalation of the war exacerbated some of the preexisting generational and ideological tensions that had been hidden within the constructions of various interracial civil rights groups for decades.

In the end, Lucks's Selma to Saigon is a powerful study that illustrates how the Vietnam War affected the lives and decisions of both famous and little-known civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young, as they decided to challenge the reasons for US expansion of its involvement in the Vietnam War. More importantly, however, this well-researched and skillfully written book makes a very important and potent contribution to the growing literature on the history of the civil rights movement from a more global perspective.

Eric R. Jackson

Northern Kentucky University

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Author:Jackson, Eric R.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2016
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