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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, this is the most comprehensive book ever written about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. David J. Garrow had unrestricted access to Martin Luther King's personal papers, to thousands of pages of newly released FBI documents and more than 700 interviews with King's closest friends and enemies.

Garrow traces King's transformation from the young pastor of a modest church into the foremost spokesperson of the civil rights movement. The book's unifying theme is King's growing awareness of the symbolic meaning of the cross as his sense of mission deepened and matured into acceptance of a life that would end by demanding the ultimate sacrifice. This is a powerful portrait of a man at the epicenter of one of the most dramatic periods in our history.

©1986 David J. Garrow; (P)1996 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Provocative...a complex and convincing portrait." (Time)
"Brilliant...one of the most valuable sources of contemporary history." (The Sunday Boston Globe)
"Mr. Garrow has provided the fundament of fact on which future King biographies must rest....Likely to remain for a long time the most informative life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the most thorough study of the civil rights movement." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Absorbing...Garrow aimed simply to write the definitive chronicle of King's life during the period of his public eminence, and he has performed the task with skill and integrity." (Times Literary Supplement)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall

great but long

First, I would say the author clearly has some incredible writing skills. The way he draws the readers in in the first few chapters is masterful. I thought that was some of the most gripping writing I have read in a long while. Likewise the end of the moving is incredibly moving given the foreboading and irony that permeates what you know will happen. There are sections in the middle that are likewise masterfully written.
I have listened to several audiobooks that were much longer than this one, but there are sections in the middle where you can find yourself zoning out for 10 min and feeling like you did not miss very much. The book is a day by day, week by week, sometimes feels like minute by minute account of MLK's life from 1955 to 1968, and it is completely linear, chronologic review of his life. Sometimes it just feels like it is one talk, one march, one act of civil disobedience after anohter. Again most of it is great, but maybe there were times when your attention is not rivetted, and the author clearly has the capability to draw you in tightly in other parts.
The narration was very good except the reader takes pauses, sometimes in mid sentence, and a few times i kept thinking my ipod broke, but then he just starts right back up again. pretty weird.
Overall very very good, definitley worth reading, but a little dry at times in the middle.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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The flesh and blood man not the saint

An unflinching look at the life of man who embraced his destiny and lead his people through very turbulent times during their fight for dignity and respect. Garrow's work is very detailed and almost feels like a minute by minute account of the events of Martin Luther King Jr and the SCLC. The book did a great job of pointing out not only his strengths and courage but also his flaws as a man susceptible to the failings of the flesh. The epilogue points out that when we idolize our hero’s we make their accomplishments seem super human and far beyond the abilities of mere mortals but Garrow definitely doesn't fall into the trap. I also like the face that King's assassin only got 6 minutes at the end of the book to document his dark deed and Garrow didn't even defile his work with his name. Leave that to other works that focus on that tragic act. Garrow focuses on King's life and the accomplishments of the SCLC.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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The Man Behind the Saint

Having just finished the speeches and sermons of Dr. King, I wanted to now get a history of the man. This book is extremely thorough. Here we see a man who stood up for right no matter the cost but also a man plagued by sin and struggles like all of us. There were times he was tired of the fight and wondered if non-violence would end up working, times he had to get away from everything, times of doubt in himself and what God was doing, and times of anguish.
J. Edgar Hoover comes out of this book as the heavy, even heavier than LBJ, the numerous sheriffs and locals who fought the civil rights movements down south, or the complacent ministers he always tried to get to stand up for what was right. Garrow must have had access to FBI records because a lot of this book is told from that point of view.
It is interesting to see that even at the beginning of the civil rights movement that there was little agreement on how to proceed. Everyone seemed to be politicking to get their name on top while it seemed to organically flow to MLK despite reluctance on his part.
One of the most poignant parts of the book was when Malcolm X came to speak with MLK. It makes a lot of sense.
The political manutiae in this book does make it seem to drag at points but then, when people are fighting for political power instead of the greater purpose of the whole movement, I'm sure it slowed down for MLK also. There are many times I was like, "Stop fighting and get on with the important work." This is a sentiment I am sure was shared with those in the room.
It is long but worth it. Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Following in his footsteps

This is an amazingly detailed account, often moving through the events of a single day of meetings as travel, of King and his inner circle's work. It feels very much on the ground: step by literal step.

That might be too much information for some, but as a community organizer working for social change in the here and now, it was incredibly instructive to hear the memos back and forth about specific actions, to see the dissent and resolution over the course of a campaign, to understand their strategic minds in real time.

I haven't read the Branch books (that's next!), so can't make a comparison, but if you want a single volume and are okay with it being squarely focused on MLK alone, this is wonderful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Eric
  • Pleasant Grove, UT, United States
  • 11-12-10

Human Rights, not Civil Rights World Leader

Born in 1965 to a middle class white family on the West coast, I only taught that Dr. MLK was a “civil rights” leader, until i listened to this book. It is a sad statement about both the black and white communities continue to perpetuate this lie; Dr. King was a “human rights” leader. What I learned from this fabulous book was that for a decade King’s SCLC organization’s efforts, although reported at the national and global level, were almost all focused at a municipal level. It was not until Dr. King threatened the US Government, that his demise was sealed. It is a sad coincidence that three of the most powerful men, MLK, JFK and RFK, that COULD have ended war and brought peace to America’s conscience were all assassinated, to stop that from happening. I’m sure if Dr. King had lived he would have shed a tear when Obama was elected; then wept bitterly just a few weeks later as he organized protests against the additional troops Obama sent to Afghanistan against his progressive campaign promises.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Get another reader!!!

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I really wanted to "hear" this book. I have listened to Audible books regularly for over 3 years. But the reader/narrator of this book was so bad... I couldn't get through the second chapter. The reader sounded like someone from a really boring 1950's documentary about roadway construction. No heart, no soul. Can't do it. I love MLK and his story. But I guess I will have to buy the book and read it myself.

What didn’t you like about Jeff Riggenbach’s performance?

Nothing. Terrible. This is the first time in over 3 years of monthly listening to books that I have ever written a review complaining about a reader. I will make sure I never purchase an audile book read by this guy. No soul, too formal, no heart.... like I said above he sounds like a really boring narrator from at documentary you had to watch in social studies class in the 1950's . It's the kind of voice I just ignore and tune out. I couldn't get through chapter two.

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Incredible

MLK the person is shown to us. He was a beautiful man that cared about his people and all of humanity with such sincerity. We continue to live in a sick society. Racism is still a huge problem. MLK would still be fighting if he were alive.

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Lacked appeal

Often slow and boring. Probably better read. The narrative was good despite being lukewarm.

  • Overall

It was boring.

This story should be exciting and provocative and it was not. The author focused on the minutia of Dr. King's life.

1 of 7 people found this review helpful