NPR

Exploding Myths About 'Black Power, Jewish Politics'

In a new book, historian Marc Dollinger argues that the conventional wisdom of Jewish and African-American harmony during the civil rights era is flawed. And that the real story has lessons for today.
From left Bishop James Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, February 6, 1968. Source: Charles Del Vecchio

Many Americans tell the story of Black-Jewish political relations like this: First, there was the Civil Rights movement, where the two groups got along great.

This was the mid-1950s to the mid-60s — picture Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marching arm-in-arm from Selma to Montgomery. And James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, murdered while organizing to register black voters in Mississippi.

Then, the story goes, there was a shift. In the mid-'60s, with the rise of black nationalism (and what some describe as black anti-Semitism), "the once wonderful alliance dissolved and split. And since the mid 1960s, it's been terrible."

That, says historian Marc Dollinger, is "the accepted wisdom on how to understand Jewish participation in the civil rights movement."

Except, Dollinger adds, that's not really what happened.

He lays all this out in his new book, Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s.

Dollinger, a professor at San Francisco State University, argues that much of our accepted knowledge about the interaction between

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