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Nine Days

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

Paul Kendrick Stephen Kendrick



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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
12 January 2021
[An] inspiring book about the events leading up to the 1960 election, from Dr. King's imprisonment to student activism in Atlanta to JFK's campaign. It's a story we can all learn from--a story of overlooked heroes and the power each of us has to create change. --Barack Obama A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice One of O magazine's best books of February 2021 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.
By:   ,
Imprint:   Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 157mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   590g
ISBN:   9781250155702
ISBN 10:   1250155703
Pages:   368
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Stephen Kendrick is the author of Holy Clues: The Gospel According to Sherlock Holmes and Night Watch (a novel). His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Hartford Current, American Heritage, Huffington Post, and Utne Reader. Paul Kendrick is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, American Heritage, Talking Points Memo, and Huffington Post. Together, they are the coauthors of Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader and a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery and Save the Union and Sarah's Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America.

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

This engrossing book about the events following Martin Luther King's imprisonment on the eve of the 1960 presidential election reveals the remarkable confluence of moral courage and shrewd political calculation that changed the course of American history. I decided to take a peek and then spent the rest of the day reading the entire book. A fascinating telling of a story that more people should know about. --Dr. Clayborne Carson, editor of the King Papers Project and The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and professor and founding director of the King Research and Education Institute at Stanford University Students in the Atlanta sit-in movement could not have foreseen how our actions would set the events in this book in motion. Nine Days is a detailed retelling of an episode in Civil Rights and American history that still reverberates today. --Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita, Children's Defense Fund You can't comprehend Martin Luther King Jr.'s place in the civil rights crusade--or Jack Kennedy's razor-thin win over Dick Nixon in 1960--without understanding King's jailing just before the election. And you can't grasp the resonance of those nine long days and nights without reading (and relishing) Stephen and Paul Kendrick's extraordinary book. --Larry Tye, author of Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon and Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy Stephen and Paul Kendrick have written a phenomenal work that will live beyond our time and space. Nine Days is urgent, relevant, and historically accurate. I only wish some of my dear civil rights movement friends who have passed on could read this book's recounting of the history we made. --Reverend Otis Moss Jr., Atlanta Student Movement veteran and civil rights leader

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