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2.0 out of 5 starsThis Is Not an Autobiography
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2015
This is not an autobiography in the true sense of the word. It is not even an autobiography as told to, such as the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Apparently this writer was commissioned by MLK's family to write an account of his life, based on his writings and their remembrances. The author imagines conversations that Dr. King might have, and supports that with snippets of his writing. Maybe that's okay for some, but I say this is a biography, mostly of his adult activist life, and it contains none of the critical analysis that's in David Garrow's Bearing the Cross. This "autobiography" left me hungry for the real story. The one highlight for me was reading Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Other than that, I could have made better use of my time. But that's just me. Buy it if you want to read an outline of his life.
5.0 out of 5 starsI learned so much that I didn't know I didn't know. The Washington Post needs a copy of this book.
Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2018
Although it is not an Autobiography penned by MLK himself, in many ways this is a more reliable telling of events in his life since the source material is all his letters, papers, newspaper articles, and contemporaneous writing of people who were present to witness the various events. For me, the important parts include: (1) The Montgomery bus strike lasted over a year. These were some very determined people who walked everywhere they needed to go for over a year! (2) MLK is the kind of religious man we see way too rarely - a man who lives his beliefs every minute of every day. I am pretty stanchly anti-organized religion because of my perceptions about folks not living their beliefs at all times (which is a really, really tall order, I realize), but this book brought me back to questions my personal opinions, prejudices, and beliefs about religion and the practice thereof. (3) In their 2018 article on MLK for MLK day, the Washington Post got it wrong. They said that King was finally swaying to Malcom X's advocacy of violence to try to combat segregation and discrimination during the later part of King's life and that is just completely wrong according to the source materials set forth in this book. This book is excellent.
One one level I an deeply ashamed that I am just reading this comprehensive, compelling, and courageous book taken from the writings and speeches of the man himself and on another level I am happy I am reading this in 2016 as the issues of racism, poverty, and war (King's self-described 3 evils) are still very much alive. This is the example of a leader as Servant - a powerful man who dedicated his power not to the creation of personal wealth but to improving the conditions for millions of people. As a black man who has directly benefited from the Civil Rights Movement I feel a personal responsibility to advance the work of Dr. King. I plan to return to this tome often for inspiration. We shall Overcome!
5.0 out of 5 starsEveryone who wants to understand America should read this book ...
Reviewed in the United States on January 13, 2018
It was unfortunate that Martin Luther King Jr. did not get a chance to write his own autobiography, but Clayborne Carson does a wonderful job piecing together Martin's life struggles, highlights and main ideas. Martin's honesty and quest for justice rings throughout. There were a few sections that were duplicative, but overall I thought it was an excellent, absorbing read. To me, the book really delivered toward the end. Discussions on the concepts of power and love and nonviolence and violence were exceptional. I also really appreciated Martin's digging down to the root cause of black thought in relation to America - why, for example, many young black people leaned toward violence as a method to gain freedom and respect. Finally, there were a number of passages that could have been written today - so many points Martin made are as fresh as ever. Martin's revelations are timeless. Everyone who wants to understand America should read this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsEye-opening, and insightful. What an amazing story.
Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2013
I bought this book for a number of reasons. Firstly, I knew precious little about the man who stands as a giant of history. I also knew little about the kind of Christianity he professed, and had heard some people scandalously say that King was in no real way a Christian (i.e. Christopher Hitchens). All I can say after reading this book is WOW - what an amazing story. I heard King's voice speaking every word of every chapter. It was like he was sitting next to you telling you the story of his life.
King was most certainly a Christian. He grew up in a Christian home, he went to Seminary, he became a minister and pastored a Church. He spoke of a personal relationship with Jesus. He depended on God for strength during difficult times, he prayed to Jesus, he worshiped Jesus, he preached about Jesus, and led a congregation of Jesus followers. If that's not Christian nothing is. Yet his theology was decidedly liberal. He was embarrassed by his fundamentalist upbringing, especially those who would check their minds in at the door of Church and stomp their feet during the service. He spoke candidly about denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and embracing the liberal view of man. However he was an honest man, who at times questioned his presuppositions. I was impressed how he preached a Gospel that led to action in the present world. Not just a gospel of Sunday pieties.
In story after story King recounted how he was committed to nonviolence because this was the way of Jesus (and Gandhi whom he was later influenced by). He didn't preach hatred of white people, but reconciliation, with an aim to a fully integrated society. If anyone had reason to hate it was King. His home was bombed, his friends homes were bombed, he and his family were verbally abused and threatened, he was stabbed, he was arrested more times than I can count, and was often the victim of gross injustice. Yet in all that he showed the world that he served another Lord, and preached a different Gospel. Violence, only begets more violence. My heart broke for those who suffered during the era of segregation. At times I was almost reduced to tears, reading about the horrors of what mankind has done to each other. Not only that but I finally came to understand a little of what it was like to grow up as a Black Man in a climate of racism, to suffer under such terrible injustice, disrespect and disenfranchisement. Blessed are the peacemakers like Dr King, for they will be called the children of God.
Yet there were times I felt that King's liberalism got the better of him. I felt that King's idea of heaven on earth was simply an integrated society where everyone had equal opportunity to all state services, good jobs, and so on. Yet this idea doesn't go far enough. What about personal repentance and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit? Can non-violent action really bring this about? Does it treat the symptoms rather than the root cause of the issue? What God's kingdom coming to earth, and us anticipating it in the present, but recognizing it is a future reality? He condemned violent protest, and distanced himself from people like Malcolm X but didn't call on those who had been violent to repent and follow Jesus. Many times he simply rationalized their violence as the understandable reaction of those who had suffered for too long. He often saw the suffering of the negro community as redemptive. But that is to give the community too much power, and a job that only Jesus can truly accomplish. If King meant that through their suffering and weakness, they embodied Jesus' suffering, and pointed people more fully towards Christ, then I have no issues. King's views on poverty and military action were a little naive. Giving away surplus food from the western world to store it in the empty bellies of hungry Indian Children, is a noble thought, but nothing more than a short term solution to a systemic problem. Giving away food like that can drive down the prices of local produce and cause more harm for the local economy than good.
Yet those quibbles aside, this is still a fantastic book. Towards the end it gets a little dry and repetitive, but is very readable. If you only read one book on the Civil rights movement and it's pivotal leader, read this one.
5.0 out of 5 starsKing was a great man who accomplished great things
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2018
Written as though King himself had chosen every word, this gives much needed insight into key phases of King's life, the Civil Rights struggle and his tremendous speeches. My greater understanding of the issues are thanks to this book. King's eloquence inhabits every word, extracting through vivid imagery, emotional responses. King was a great man who accomplished great things. This book is a fitting testimony.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 19, 2018
Very good book. I became fascinated by Martin Luther King after visiting his memorial in Washington DC and standing on the spot where he did his famous speech to the nation. This book is a very good read and so easy to digest and understand. Passed it onto my teenage son who is equally fascinated.