Ubuntu: George M. Houser and the Struggle for Peace and Freedom on Two Continents 

            University Press, Dec. 2020

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The most important people in the world are often those who work quietly in the background of events, devoting their lives to the causes in which they believe.  Without them there would be no triumph.  George Houser is such a man.  Many political leaders in Africa during the last three decades have been helped to become effective by George Houser.  I am one of those whom he helped.


                                                            --Julius K. Nyerere, first president of Tanzania


George Mills Houser has been described by historian Thomas Sugrue as “one of the most important civil rights and antiwar activists of the twentieth century.” As Aldon Morris in his seminal work on the Civil Rights Movement pointed out, movements that change the course of history do not spring up spontaneously but are the work of countless unsung organizers who prepare the soil ahead of time. Houser, a white United Methodist clergyman, was one of those largely unsung organizers whose tireless and principled activism spanned almost half a century and two continents. 


Twenty-five years before a draft resistance movement against the Vietnam War emerged, Houser, a pacifist, was refusing to register for the WW II draft, serving almost a year in prison for his refusal to support what he called the “war machine.”  Seventeen years before the Greensboro sit-ins Houser, a co-founder and executive director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was leading sit-ins and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience at restaurants, barber shops, bowling alleys, swimming pools, public beaches and movie theaters in northern and border states in support of desegregation in public accommodations.  Twenty-five years before passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Houser was challenging racially restrictive housing covenants.  Fourteen years before the famous “freedom rides” into the South made national headlines in 1961, Houser and Bayard Rustin organized the first freedom ride into the upper South. 


Twenty years before a large-scale solidarity movement with victims caught up in the wars in Central America emerged in the 1970s, Houser was pioneering a model of transnational activism or international solidarity with the victims of colonialism and imperialism in Africa, befriending the emerging leaders of African anticolonial movements and helping them to become legitimated on the world stage. Houser not only helped to make history but had a front row seat in several historic landmarks.  He was an invited guest at most of the pivotal political events associated with African independence, attended many independence celebrations, all three of the All African Peoples’ Conferences, the founding conference of the Organization for African Unity, and served as an observer of the first free elections in Zimbabwe and Namibia.  Over time, his efforts, along with those of a vast international network, helped to bring down the South African apartheid regime.  Given the cynicism and corruption facing the U.S. and the world today Houser’s story of unshakeable religious faith manifested in decisive action for human rights and social justice is one for our time.

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When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal

Oxford University Press, 2014

When Government Helped systematically evaluates some parallels between the Great Depression and the 2007-2008  global economic meltdown, not only in terms of their economic causes and consequences, but also their political and cultural contexts and the environmental crises that afflicted both periods.  The positive and negative lessons for contemporary policy making are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of authors across a range of policy arenas.  The book presents a new set of guideposts--some beneficial, some cautionary--for the future.

Washington's New Poor Law: Welfare Reform and the Roads Not Taken, 1935 to the Present

The Apex Press, 2001

The Clinton Administration, in repealing the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) which entitled poor families to welfare and failing to create an entitlement to work in the 1996 so-called "welfare reform" legislation, Washington had, in effect, written a new Poor Law which condemns the poor to continued, if not further, impoverishment and social stigma.  This book traces the history of welfare from its inception in 1935 to its repeal in 1996 and beyond, showing how a failure to consider the limitations of the job market condemns the poor to continued, if not further, impoverishment and social stigma.  

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Let Them Eat Ketchup: The Politics of Poverty and Inequality

Monthly Review Press, 1995

Let Them Eat Ketchup--The title comes from a Reagan administration decision to classify ketchup as a vegetable in federal school lunch programs.  The book explains how the government defines and measures poverty, how and why official definitions of poverty fall short, and the failure to deal with the real suffering and inequality in our so-called "class-free" society.  Liberals and conservatives alike have promoted social theories that blame and target the poor.  Collins explains these theories, their function, and their economic and political consequences when applied as public policy.  The roots and results of Washington's major attempts to confront poverty--the New Deal and the Great Society--are described in detail.

The Rainbow Challenge: The Jackson Campaign and the Future of U.S. Politics

Monthly Review Press, 1987

The Rainbow Challenge is the only study of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 insurgency presidential primary campaign from the perspective of a participant observer.  The author worked on the national campaign staff and saw from the inside how the Democratic party establishment and news media sought to limit this progressive candidate’s cross-racial and cross-class appeal ultimately succeeding in marginalizing his candidacy.  At the same time, the author provides insights into how such a campaign could be a model for future progressive movement building using a primary campaign as a launching pad.

Jobs for All: A Plan for the Revitalization of America

The Apex Press, 1994

Written by members of New Initiatives for Full Employment (NIFE), Jobs for All is a program to ensure suitable jobs at good wages for everyone who wants to work. Full employment is both an ethical imperative and the key to economic justice and prosperity. It is critical in securing those civil and political rights that are the bedrock of American democracy. People who are denied their right to a job cannot participate effectively as citizens in political or economic life. Jobs for All rejects the cruel contradiction between the rhetoric of the "work ethic" and the denial of jobs to millions. Full employment is feasible and achievable in the modern global economy. The key barriers are political and ideological, not technical or economic. This book, by demonstrating the feasibility of full employment, seeks to empower those who are now being denied economic justice and points the way toward making America truly a land of opportunity for everyone.

A Different Heaven and Earth: A Feminist Perspective on Religion

Judson Press, 1974


The book portrays what was happening as women, who came to consciousness in the early 1970s, began to explore the meaning of their own religious experience.  It describes the unfolding of a new kind of consciousness, a view of reality which stands as both a judgment upon and an opening out of the world view expressed for the past three millennia in patriarchal Western religious history.  On its publication, many women reported that reading it had changed their lives.©2020

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