Power to the Poor

Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974

By Gordon K. Mantler

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 20 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2188-3
    Published: February 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0806-8
    Published: February 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8639-2
    Published: February 2013

Justice, Power, and Politics

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The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. In a major reinterpretation of civil rights and Chicano movement history, Gordon K. Mantler demonstrates how King's unfinished crusade became the era's most high-profile attempt at multiracial collaboration and sheds light on the interdependent relationship between racial identity and political coalition among African Americans and Mexican Americans. Mantler argues that while the fight against poverty held great potential for black-brown cooperation, such efforts also exposed the complex dynamics between the nation's two largest minority groups.

Drawing on oral histories, archives, periodicals, and FBI surveillance files, Mantler paints a rich portrait of the campaign and the larger antipoverty work from which it emerged, including the labor activism of Cesar Chavez, opposition of Black and Chicano Power to state violence in Chicago and Denver, and advocacy for Mexican American land-grant rights in New Mexico. Ultimately, Mantler challenges readers to rethink the multiracial history of the long civil rights movement and the difficulty of sustaining political coalitions.

About the Author

Gordon K. Mantler is assistant professor of writing and of history, and director of Writing in the Disciplines at the George Washington University.
For more information about Gordon K. Mantler, visit the Author Page.


"The often-overlooked partnership between Mexican American and African American activists of the 1960s receives much-deserved attention in this important contribution to the history of the civil rights era. . . . Recommended. All academic levels/libraries."--Choice

“Mantler offers an impressive examination of an understudied topic: antipoverty movements. He successfully weaves multiple histories, based on a sometimes staggering array of sources, into a highly readable analysis of social movement organizing.”--Journal of American History

“This fascinating and richly researched book offers an important corrective to assumptions that identity politics and multiracial coalitions are necessarily mutually exclusive.”--American Historical Review

“Gordon Mantler turns conventional wisdom on its head. . . . An important, innovative addition to the growing literature on racial coalitions during the civil rights era.”--Law and History Review

“Mantler offers an impressive examination of an understudied topic: antipoverty movements.”--Journal of American History

“Well written and significantly researched book that explores instances where identity politics and multiracial coalitions were not mutually exclusive. . . . A highly helpful read for those interested in the historiography of civil rights and identity-based movements, African American organizing, Mexican American activism, poverty, economic justice, and, most importantly, coalition politics.”--H-Net Reviews

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @gomantler.

Visit Mantler's personal website.

Read: In a guest blog post, Mantler urges us to remember a different march on Washington that King helped plan but did not attend. Read "Remembering that Other March on Washington."

Read: In a guest blog post, "For Latinos, It’s Not All about Immigration," Mantler reminds politicians that earning votes from the United States' rising Latino population will require action on more than just immigration issues.