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THE BEST BOOKS OF 1996 | BIOGRAPHY

AN EASY BURDEN The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America By Andrew Young; HarperCollins: 550 pp., $27.50

December 29, 1996|JULIAN BOND

Andrew Young's story of his life, his work as Martin Luther King Jr.'s aide and his election to Congress in 1972 is an invaluable addition to the growing list of civil rights histories. He is only the second member of King's intimate circle to offer an inside view of the people who led the movement.

Young was present at the times and places America rid itself of legalized white supremacy. In the years after King's death, Young broke ground as Georgia's first modern black congressman, the United States' first black ambassador to the United Nations and as Atlanta's second black mayor. "An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America" is a tell-some, not a tell-all, book that stands in sharp contrast to another insider account by the late Rev. Ralph Abernathy, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down," which was notable for its highly publicized attack on King's philandering.

Young's description of King's campaigns gives readers a privileged glimpse of the inner workings of one of the 1960s' most vital civil rights organizations. As Young takes readers through his youth in New Orleans and his years at Howard University and Hartford Seminary, he describes a man-in-training for a civil rights movement that would explode in the late '50s and early '60s.

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