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A Freedom Budget for All Americans: Recapturing the Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in the Struggle for Economic Justice Today


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CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

While the Civil Rights Movement is remembered for efforts to end segregation and secure the rights of African Americans, the larger economic vision that animated much of the movement is often overlooked today. That vision sought economic justice for every person in the United States, regardless of race. It favored production for social use instead of profit; social ownership; and democratic control over major economic decisions. The document that best captured this vision was the Freedom Budget for All Americans: Budgeting Our Resources, 1966-1975, To Achieve Freedom from Want published by the A. Philip Randolph Institute and endorsed by a virtual ‘who’s who’ of U.S. left liberalism and radicalism. Now, two of today’s leading socialist thinkers return to the Freedom Budget and its program for economic justice. Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates explain the origins of the Freedom Budget, how it sought to achieve “freedom from want” for all people, and how it might be re-imagined for our current moment. Combining historical perspective with clear-sighted economic proposals, the authors make a concrete case for reviving the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and building the society of economic security and democratic control envisioned by the movement’s leaders—a struggle that continues to this day. [soliloquy id=”the-radical-thrust-of-the-civil-rights-movement”]

For an in-depth discussion of the history of the Freedom Budget and the need for a new Freedom Budget, click hear to listen to Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates on CBS NewsRadio 1020 KDKA with Chris Moore.

Below is a video of Paul Le Blanc (with activist Kali Akuno) discussing the prospects of a new Freedom Budget on The Real News Network

Invaluable for restating the influence of the American left on King’s views and enriching the historical record.

Library Journal

This remarkable book brings back into view a radical vision for victory within the mainstream … Historians of American social movements will find this book hugely useful.


An engaging history that not only lays out the hopes and promises of the civil rights movement, but also reveals the crucial role of socialists in that struggle.

——International Socialist Review

A valuable contribution, because it teaches today’s generation how mass civil disobedience won a historic victory—and just as important, how the need for political independence is key to preserving and moving beyond those gains to a socialist conclusion.

——Against the Current

In this book, Paul Le Blanc and Michael D. Yates rescue the Freedom Budget proposed by civil rights leaders in the 1960s from an unjustified historical obscurity. And they rightly see in the Freedom Budget a model of the kind of program that could unite American progressives and help restore national prosperity and democracy in the age of Occupy.

—Maurice Isserman, professor of history, Hamilton College; author, The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington

As we enter the 50th anniversary of so many crucial events in the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Paul Le Blanc and Michael Yates present us with an excellent and long overdue chronicle of the Freedom Budget. Their attention to new and striking details results in a wondrous story told with compassion and clarity.

—Angela D. Dillard, Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan; author, Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit

A Freedom Budget for All Americans provides a variety of interesting narratives that help us to rethink civil rights history and to renew efforts to build a broad and unifying agenda for economic democracy and social change.

—Michael Honey, author, Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign

A dazzling gem of socialist scholarship! This cogent account of the genesis of the 1966 Freedom Budget yields penetrating insights into a multitude of fascinating episodes as well as sobering strategic issues in the saga of the liberal and radical Left. Le Blanc and Yates conjoin meticulous research with a sensitive analysis to deliver a superb political narrative graphically recreating a significant slice of lost history.

—Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan

Exciting and unique, especially for students, activists, and scholars. An important challenge to the neoliberal agenda.

—Immanuel Ness, editor, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society

Many Americans would probably be shocked to learn that leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were radicals. A Freedom Budget for All Americans shows that the political development and leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, and others, were inextricably bound up with socialist organizations and ideas. These heroes of American history were fighting for much more than “civil rights”—they were fighting to fundamentally change American social and economic life.

—Brian Jones, educator, actor, and activist

While too late for Occupy, A Freedom Budget should be required reading for Black Lives Matter activists, labour leaders, and others dedicated to the causes of Black freedom and economic justice.

—Kerry Taylor, Labour / Le Travail, vol. 76

Paul Le Blanc is professor of history at La Roche College and the author of many titles, including From Marx to Gramsci and Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience. Michael D. Yates is associate editor of Monthly Review and the author of Why Unions Matter and The ABCs of the Economic Crisis (with Fred Magdoff).

Format Clear

Publication Date: August 2013

Number of Pages: 272

Paperback ISBN: 9781583673607

Cloth ISBN: 9781583673614

eBook ISBN: 9781583673621