If Your Back's Not Bent

If Your Back's Not Bent : The Role of the Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement

3.7 (10 ratings by Goodreads)

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"Nobody can ride your back if your back's not bent," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said at the end of a Citizenship Education Program (CEP), an adult grassroots training program directed by Dorothy Cotton. This program, called the best-kept secret of the twentieth century's civil rights movement, was critical in preparing legions of disenfranchised people across the South to work with existing systems of local government to gain access to services and resources they were entitled to as citizens. They learned to demonstrate peacefully against injustice, even when they were met with violence and hatred. The CEP was born out of the work of the Tennessee Highlander Folk School and was fully developed and expanded by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Dr. King until that fateful day in Memphis in April 1968. Cotton was checked into the Lorraine Motel at that time as well, but she'd left to do the work of the CEP before the assassin's bullet was fired. "If Your Back's Not Bent "recounts the accomplishments and the drama of this training that was largely ignored by the media, which had focused its attention on marches and demonstrations. This book describes who participated and how they were transformed--men and women alike--from victims to active citizens, and how they transformed their communities and ultimately the country into a place of greater freedom and justice for all. Cotton, the only woman in Dr. King's inner circle of leadership, for the first time offers her account of the movement, correcting the historical impression that "we only marched and sang." She shows how the CEP was key to the movement's success, and how the lessons of the program can serve our democracy now. People, and therefore systems, can indeed change "if your back's not bent."show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 544.31g
  • Atria Books
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0743296834
  • 9780743296830

Review quote

""If Your Back's Not Bent" is more than the compelling story of a motherless child who grew up in a shotgun shack on an unpaved road in Goldsboro, N.C. to become the lone female in Dr. Martin Luther King's inner leadership circle. It's the story of how people such as Dorothy Cotton and those she trained became what the civil rights movement needed them to be. Cotton's Citizenship Education program taught ordinary people how to interpret the Constitution, set goals, run meetings, plan marches, practice nonviolence and--most importantly--realize they could change both themselves and America." --Betty DeRamus, author of "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad" and "Freedom by Any Means"show more

About Dorothy F Cotton

Dorothy Cotton, a lifelong activist and visionary dedicated to social justice. She lives in Ithaca, New York, where the Dorothy Cotton Institute of Cornell University was recently launched as a tribute to her legacy.show more

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10 ratings
3.7 out of 5 stars
5 20% (2)
4 40% (4)
3 30% (3)
2 10% (1)
1 0% (0)
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