Selma to Saigon

The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

The civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. Before the war gained widespread attention, the New Left, the SNCC, and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) worked together to create a biracial alliance with the potential to make significant political and social gains in Washington. Contention over the war, however, exacerbated preexisting generational and ideological tensions that undermined the coalition, and Lucks analyzes the causes and consequences of this disintegration.

This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

About the Author

Daniel S. Lucks earned his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.


"The first full-length treatment of the relationship between the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, this extremely well-researched and very readable book should become the standard in its area."—James E. Westheider, author of The African American Experience in Vietnam: Brothers In Arms

"While many others have examined the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, no one, to date, has presented as well-researched and well-written examination of the relationship between these two seminal developments as Lucks does in Selma to Saigon. Lucks convincingly argues that the war forced African Americans to 'choose sides' and that by the end of the 1960s the civil rights movement had become yet another casualty of the fight in Southeast Asia. His work should be of interest to a broad range of readers, from scholars of the civil rights movement to a more general audience of readers interested in the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the 1960s."—Peter B. Levy, author of Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland

"At last, a book that acknowledges the enormous impact of the Cold War on the relationship between the civil rights and peace movements. Reading Daniel Lucks's analysis of how the Vietnam War divided the civil rights movement, one cannot help but consider the profound and lasting consequences of those divisions and the lessons we might learn as we continue the struggle for justice and peace."—Robbie Lieberman, author of The Strangest Dream: Communism, Anticommunism and the U.S. Peace Movement 1945-1963

"In Selma to Saigon, Daniel S. Lucks places civil rights leaders' responses to the Vietnam War firmly within the Cold War context, and explores the tragic repercussions of America's disastrous military intervention in Southeast Asia for African Americans. His important book demonstrates the continuing draw of 'The Sixties' on the historical imagination, as well as that turbulent era's complex legacy."—Simon Hall, author of Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s

"A pivotal and much-needed examination of the impact of the war in Vietnam on black America and the civil rights movement. Few wars produced as many ironies and paradoxes, as Lucks demonstrates compellingly and thoughtfully in his analysis and through the voices and actions of the participants, one of whom said, 'I had left one war and came back to fight another one.' That spirit resonated among many who survived and returned to a changed and all-too-familiar America."—Leon F. Litwack, A. F. and May T. Morrison Professor of American History Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

"A superb portrait of a very diffuse movement. Excellent."—Choice

"[Luck's] analysis of how the civil rights and antiwar movements intertwined and affected each other is breathtaking in its complexity."—Air Power History

"Daniel S. Lucks makes an important contribution by deconstructing the civil rights movement and revealing the tensions and disagreements among movement leadership and African American citizens over how to respond to the Vietnam War."—American Historical Review

"Other books on this topic] do not achieve the depth that Lucks does. [] Based on meticulous research of a wide array of sources, Lucks paints an intense picture of the Vietnam War's effects on the civil rights movement and Lyndon B. Johnson's civil rights activism."—H-Net Reviews

"Daniel S. Lucks's comprehensive and compelling Selma to Saigon carefully examines how the U.S. war in Vietnam affected the course of the civil rights struggle.

It is the volume's rigorous detail in the telling that makes this work so valuable. Lucks combines a rich store of notable quotations and figures, historiographical insights, prominent tales told elsewhere, and original archival contributions to create a dense chronology that provides illuminating context for the actions taken by movement actors.

For students of these critical social movements and for those seeking to understand the complex political and ideological currents that buoy and sink struggles for social change, Selma to Saigon is an outstanding and welcome resource."—Journal of American History

"Luck'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 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."—Historian

"In Selma to Saigon, Lucks has provided a thoroughly researched work of historiography indispensable to African American Studies, Civil Rights, American history, and social movement scholars. By situating his analysis in the deep Cold War context and its long thaw through the 1960s, he offers a nuance to our understanding of the eventual disintegration of the Civil Rights coalition, while filling a necessary gap in the enormity of Civil Rights literature."—Journal of American Culture

"...quite unlike many other similar works, this [book] explores a period of African American history when the walls of twentieth-century Jim Crow America literally did "come tumbling down." ...the author, without fanfare and exaggeration, gives readers a broad and interior look at how an unprecedented cast of talented African American leaders grappled with two of the most turbulent developments in American history since the Civil War and Reconstruction: civil rights and the Vietnam War... the book gives readers one of the most riveting glimpses available on major civil rights leaders as they twisted ideologically between the poles of their own pangs of conscience and the hated labels assigned to those who opposed Cold War orthodoxy or the pioneering civil rights leadership of President Johnson."—David Dennard, The Journal of African American History

9780813145075 : selma-to-saigon-lucks
394 Pages
$60.00 USD
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Electronic book text
394 Pages
$24.95 USD
9780813145099 : selma-to-saigon-lucks
Electronic book text
394 Pages
$60.00 USD
9780813168463 : selma-to-saigon-lucks
Paperback / softback
394 Pages
$24.95 USD

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