Cover Image: Waging a Good War

Waging a Good War

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Member Reviews

Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968, by Thomas E Ricks, is an excellent history of the movement that concentrates on strategy, planning, and executing the plan. 

I was surprised to read that there weren't more books or research papers using the military perspective since it so clearly parallels military thought. Ricks does a great job of bringing the analogy to fruition without resorting to making it sound like a cliche. One of the strengths of the book is the highlighting of lesser known yet vital people involved in coordinating and planning so many diverse actions.

The other major takeaway from the book is one Ricks states clearly, we need to both remember the movement and learn the organizing principles so that we may use them to re-fight the same battles against those who would restrict voting rights as well as reinstitute other oppressive policies.

Highly recommended for everyone from the historian to the activist. We must learn from the past so that we may use those lessons in the present to make a better future. For all!!

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Informative and helpful guide into nonviolence, a Gandhian tactic more aggressive in achieving its goals than open hostilities. 

'Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968' describes the mechanics of nonviolence that led to the actual desegregation of the South. 

Thomas E. Ricks, a war reporter and military history specialist, provides a new glance into the movement of the 1950s-1960s in America that gave rise to such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Diane Nash, James Lawson, and James Bevel, among the countless others. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the King's assassination, the book guides the readers through the essential battles, focusing on the appliance of Gandhian philosophy to American reality. To achieve their goals, leaders spent months in preparation, much longer than the actual event itself. The thorough research of the surroundings, recruiting and training of volunteers, unexpected twists in tactics if the old one wasn't working, and the little victories instead of unrealistic global changes resembled how an army operates before and in battle. Whenever these essentials were missing (like in Chicago), the movement achieved little in the best case; in the worst, it complicated the situation on the ground.

Distilling the tremendous amount of information to serve one purpose - to show the principles of nonviolence - the author managed to illuminate well-known facts in a new light. When starting the book, I considered recommending it only to people with no previous knowledge of the subject. After all, everybody at least heard, if not researched, about Martin Luther King Jr. However, as the author dived deeper into the philosophical aspects of Gandhian teaching, without employing an academic style, I found myself anticipating the next page and the next, and the next. For people who need practical lessons in nonviolence, the book can be a step-by-step guide as well as a source of further reading. 

Violence produces more violence. Why not learn from history how effective nonviolence can be?
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