This was the perfect choice to better understand what Dr. King was about and why he is now honored for his contributions to American society and indeed the contemporary
American soul. The book is built around a timeline presentation of actual recordings of Dr. King's landmark speeches, from his calls for nonviolent resistance through bus boycotts in 1955 to his final "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech delivered in Memphis the day before his assassination. Most start with an introduction written and/or read by someone with connection to Dr. King and his movement: his wife, close friends who worked with him for years in the civil rights campaign, and people who witnessed first hand his unforgettable presence when he spoke. Fair warning, all the speech recordings are live and a couple are lower quality and thus hard to hear, but most are very clear.
The structure is simple, elegant, and allows Dr. King's intelligence, compassion, and commitment speak for themselves as he over time develops his approach to nonviolence, loving community, and social justice. You hear him testing the analogies and concepts that later ring with passion in the "I Have a Dream" speech, the increasingly global perspective as he studies both the events and literature of the world for further insight including the end of colonialism in Ghana, the works of Shakespeare, philosophy from Ancient Greece to Marx and Nietzsche, and political realities in the Soviet Union and Vietnam. Erudite and eloquent, his own words reveal his depth of commitment to achievement of the promise of American freedom for all its citizens and justice for the world grounded in the tenets of his faith.
More than a history lesson, the books captures what keeps Dr. King's message relevant decades after he delivered it. The inability to have true freedom without true justice for all, the importance of nonviolence of spirit as well as action, how essential an approach built on love is to avoiding the bitterness that perpetuates conflict -- his approach carries a poignant message in a time characterized by a world becoming increasingly polarized at all levels, from individual citizens to our highest government institutions. I've found no better resource for insight into the man, the movement, and what both can bring to the twenty-first century.
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