Nick Kotz has brought analytic insights and broad human sympathies to the now- familiar story of how civil rights legislation arose from the interplay of protestors, led by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and other activists, with the presidential administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Kotz is especially effective at showing how the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shaped by the bigotry of J. Edgar Hoover, attempted to undermine King in the eyes of the president and his aides. Despite these political obstacles, King and Johnson persevered to push through Congress the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After King’s murder, Johnson also secured passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America is fair to each of the main actors. Kotz recognizes the human failings of both men. He goes beyond these surface indicators to demonstrate the community of interest that existed between Johnson, anxious to escape his defense of segregation in his Senate days, and King who had a vision of a color-blind society that would embody his Christian faith. In many respects, this story belongs to a different United States when the eradication of racial barriers appeared to be a goal society could achieve. That the intervening years have disappointed the hopes that King and Johnson shared does not invalidate their vision of a better America. Nick Kotz has no illusions. He knows that the work of these two men is yet unfinished. As an author he has offered readers a timely reminder of the legacy of two great leaders in American politics.