New from Simon & Schuster

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne
Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
You Can't Make This Stuff Up by Theresa Caputo
If Your Back's Not Bent

If Your Back's Not Bent

The Role of the Citizenship Education Program in the Civil Rights Movement

Foreword by: Andrew Young / Introduction by: Vincent Harding
“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.”
Choose a format:
  • Atria Books | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439187425 | 
  • September 2012
Add to Cart
List Price $16.99
Available for immediate download

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

SHARING THE PRIZE

Going to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize

SITTING ON A transatlantic jet airplane with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. en route to Oslo, Norway, where he would receive the Nobel Prize for Peace, is an experience I can’t help but juxtapose with my years growing up poor on Greenleaf Street in Goldsboro, North Carolina. How could I have come so far from that small town, one of four motherless daughters of a tobacco factory worker who made nine and sometimes twelve dollars a week? When the news came on the radio that Martin had won, I fairly danced out the... see more

About the Author

Dorothy Cotton
Photography by Clay Carson

Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton is lifelong civil rights activist who was the highest ranking woman in the Southern Leadership Conference (SCLC). She is a speaker, singer, peacemaker, and visionary dedicated to social justice.  She lives in Ithaca, New York.

BECOME A FAN

Explore

CONNECT WITH US

Get a FREE eBook
when you join our mailing list!