The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Narrated by: Levar Burton
Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,321 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

He was a husband, a father, a preacher - and the preeminent leader of a movement that continues to transform America and the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the twentieth century's most influential men and lived one of its most extraordinary lives. Now, in a special program commissioned and authorized by his family, here is the life and times of Martin Luther King, Jr. drawn from a comprehensive collection of writings, recordings, and documentary materials, many of which have never before been made public.

This history-making autobiography is Martin Luther King in his own words as read by others and in his own words and voice: the mild-mannered, inquisitive child and student who chafed under and eventually rebelled against segregation; the dedicated young minister who continually questioned the depths of his faith and the limits of his wisdom; the loving husband and father who sought to balance his family's needs with those of a growing, nationwide movement; and the reflective, world-famous leader who was fired by a vision of equality for people everywhere.

In original recordings of his own vivid, compassionate voice, here at last is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s unforgettable chronicle of his life and his legacy. Years in the making, and woven together from thousands of recordings and documents, including letters to his family and diary entries, this program is a unique compilation which includes many rare recordings of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering sermons, speeches, lectures, and addresses. Highlights include "I Have a Dream," "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," and "The Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech."

©1998 Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., All Rights Reserved; ©1998 Time Warner AudioBooks (Packaging Only), A Division of Time Warner Trade Publishing (P)1998 Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., All Rights Reserved; 16 9; 1998 Time Warner AudioBooks (Packaging Only), A Division of Time Warner Trade Publishing

Critic Reviews

  • Grammy Award Winner, Best Spoken Word Album, 1999

"More than a resource, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., is a keepsake." (AudioFile)

Featured Article: The Moments That Shaped a Nation


There are important events in American history that you learn about in school, or over the dinner table at home. There are moments you live through, fully aware of their historical importance, while others you only recognize as turning points in American history with time and hindsight. What’s easy to forget is that these moments are made up of people, either leading the way or caught up in the storm. Let’s take a look into a few such people and moments from America’s 20th century, and learn more about the path toward our continued fight for freedom and equality.

What listeners say about The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Fascinating Slice of History

The most powerful aspects of this "autobiography" are the excerpts from Dr. King's speeches. It is stunning to hear him speak to the very first meeting of the Montgomery bus boycott supporters (after first hearing how little time he had to prepare) and to also hear the voices of the crowd chiming in their approval. The text that stiches the speech excerpts together is considerably weaker, because that text was not written by Dr. King and lacks his eloquence. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating insight into a great leader and an extraordinary time in American history.

26 people found this helpful

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MLK read by LeVar Burton

This great listen is read by LeVar Burton (Star Trek, Reading Rainbow) and features plenty of recordings of MLK's speeches and sermons up to his death. The content mostly focuses on his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement but there is a bit on his early life.

As an objective listener with little less than a public school understanding of MLK and minor Christian backgrounds, I found this book interesting and inspiring without ever feeling like I was being preached to. I plan on reading more about this great man and the movement he helped inspire.

6 people found this helpful

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Read this to understand King

The editor of this book used MLKs own words to compile an biography that was commissioned and authorized by MLKs family after his death. In the Audible version, his own speeches are scattered throughout. Magnificent!

I cannot imagine a soul who cannot benefit from reading this book. It is still sadly so appropriate today. Progress has been made, yes. But too many things remain extremely problematic.

Those who post memes about choosing love over hate but who do not post MLK memes about action, duty, justice, fairness are especially in need of reading this book. You are in danger of choosing order over action, something MLK did not respect. In fact he felt that was the most dangerous type of person, "the moderate."

Anyone who thinks MLK was a republican should read this book.

Anyone who thinks MLK would approve of not taking action when police brutality is targeted more at black people than white should read this book.

Anyone who thinks MLK would not call for action when it has been shown that black people are arrested, caged, and punished after incarceration at *much* higher rates than white people who committed the *same* crime needs to read this book.

No matter if you are black or white, if you fail to act, MLK would not be on your side. If you disagree, but have not read his own words, read them. If you choose order over justice, you are the most troublesome type of person in MLKs eyes. Here for the taking are his own words, laid out in historical time, so the reader can understand the full context. All you need to do is read for yourself.

13 people found this helpful

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Get reacquainted with a legend

This book which is primarily writings of King interspersed with some autio of his speeches is illuminating and heart breaking at the same time. The passages tell the story of King's struggle to achieve justice for the poorest Americans -- black and white -- through non-violent confrontation with corrupt systems in the North and in the South. His words are so apt for today's turbulent times, it is astounding. I feel honored to have spent some time with this man-- and know I will return for a listen to uplift my spirit and for insight, again and again. Beautifully read.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Some great chapters, but not all

For an autobiography, the book had a lot less stories about MLK than I had expected. There were some great chapters that covered many of his different protests, and I enjoyed listening to those the most. A lot of the chapters focused on his philosophies, and even though the book was edited from his multiple books, felt very repetitive. It would have sufficed to have his speeches talk about his thoughts, instead of the same things repeated in the narrated parts. I also liked the narration, by LeVar Burton (Geordi/Star Trek), and he has a great speaking voice. I liked how speeches from MLKs life were placed in the book, but there were some problems with the audio. There were parts (including the narrated parts) where the audio skipped or just went mute.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful and inspiring listen

I rarely post reivews but this book was beautifully done. Pulled together from the writings of MLK and featuring many of his recorded speeches this is a wonderful work of scholarship and, with Kings renowed oratory style, especially well suited for listening (though recording quality of King's early speeches is uneven, it gets much better as we move through the chronology of King's life). Sadly for society, his insights and eloquent comments on social inquality and American forgein policy remain right on point. Overall though, this work stands as a testament to the capaity of individuals to change the world.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • pk
  • 09-28-09

Much more than a dreamer!

I enjoyed this audio book that was created from Dr. King's writings and speeches. The narration by Levar Burton is excellent and made even more compelling by the inclusion of some of Dr. King's actual speeches. We hear about the experiences, the moral and philosophical influences, and the circumstances that propelled Dr. King to the forefront of the civil rights movement. We learn why he maintained his commitment to non-violent and racially inclusive demonstrations while other leaders began to advocate separatism and the use of violence, if necessary. His assessment of Malcolm X and his concerns about the decision of other black leaders to make the slogan "Black Power" a prominent part of the movement are highlights.

I was surprised to learn that in the 1960's, Dr. King characterized the U.S. as a society fueled by consumption and that he believed that the inflammatory rhetoric of the vocal opponents of equal rights was intended to create an atmosphere that would provoke an act of violence. Both of these observations appear to have relevance today.

This is not as comprehensive as a biography; there is little about Dr. King's family life after his early years. However, it provides the details about the various strategies developed and implemented (not always successfully) in the different cities where Dr. King led demonstrations and negotiations, as well as the thoughtful considerations behind Dr. King's controversial opposition to the Vietnam War.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Everyone should listen to this

This was an EXCELLENT book/recording. The way the reading is interspersed with Dr. King's speeches is excellent. The choice of the narrator was spot on. Some of the sound quality of the speeches is low but that is simply unavoidable due to the age and circumstances they were recorded in.

I was very impressed at how Dr. King's faith touched every area of his short life.

Just for everyone's information, I am not African American. But I think that every white person should listen to this to and learn the reality of discrimination that is not entirely removed from society today. (Not only against African Americans but many others too.)

I think every African American should listen to this to get a true picture of who Dr. King was in his own words and hear his depth of faith.
Anyone of would benefit from listening to this recording.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

does not give the book justice

I love being able to follow along with the book but, the audio book skips over major parts of the book. This is twice where either audio book or african-american bible study cut content short. Why is the very thing we are trying to stop is still happening?

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Not exactly an autobiography, inconsistent volume - MLK speeches worthwhile

It’s an edited collection of MLK writings interspersed with audio from some of his speeches and sermons. Really liked the “I’ve seen the promised land” speech near the end. Very powerful.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-23-18

Not complete

I planned to listen to this alongside reading the physical book as I usually do. The book itself is fascinating and a very good read. However, the audiobook does not follow along at all, with the narrator missing out entire paragraphs. By the time the audiobook had reached chapter 5, I gave up and returned it. I will just read the physical version instead.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Tahseen H.
  • 01-15-18

The narrator misses sections out

What disappointed you about The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The narrator

What could Clayborne Carson - editor have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Hired a better narrator

How did the narrator detract from the book?

My issue is with the audiobook: I intended to follow along with the printed copy but noticed the narrator misses out entire paragraphs!

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment and extreme, severe anger.

Any additional comments?

No.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. M. Curtis
  • 03-15-14

WOW!

Really powerful insight into an incredible man and a social mirror that makes you question your own life and position.

If you want to feel humble and insincere then listen to this. I feel richer for doing so and can't recommend it highly enough. The occasional voices from the man himself made the hair on my arms stand up.

Where do you find more like this?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-21-20

Just golden

Definitely worth your consideration as part of your journey to becomming anti racist. I always knew the man was incredible but this book really captures all that was and connects right to where we are now. A must read!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 06-01-20

Truly inspiring and beautifully put together

What is so lovely is hearing the live recordings of the speaches themselves. The creedom songs added to the ambiance of this recording.

1 person found this helpful

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  • warwick manning
  • 08-01-20

A true hero

Why is this not in Audibles anti racism book list? Moving and enlightening. I had heard of MLK and knew the basics about what he accomplished. But this book made me feel close to a man who could surely be recognised as one of the most influential of all time. The most motivating and positive person I've ever read about, he was wise in ways I can only aspire to. Gave me a new insight into the teachings of Jesus, from an agnostic perspective I now see the power in the teachings of Jesus. Mahatma Gandhi is next on the reading list thanks to DR King. The gift this book will give you will last an eternity I promise you. Lastly I think this book holds many many answers to the issues of today and could be the key to peace and unity for many nations currently divided and angry. God bless Martin Luther King and God bless anyone who's looking for hope in the darkness.

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  • Claudie
  • 07-11-20

Amazingly Good

factual & loved hearing Martin Luther King Jnr voice. Greater understanding of what happened & how so many suffered from peaceful protests but never gave up

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-03-20

Inspirational

So inspiring. His love for humanity was relentless. I'm glad I listened to this book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-21-20

if you care about anything must read this

this is an incredibly inspiring book. the recordings are are wonderful to hear and often gave me tingles all over. he truly was a lesson to us all and hearing what inspired him gives a sense of purpose to life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-19-19

LEADERSHIP in display.

An inspiring book on selflessness, courage and legacy building. A must listen for all LEADERS

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  • Vivien
  • 04-11-18

We need more leaders like this!

Martin Luther King had the courage and humanity of a giant amongst men! His commitment to equality between blacks and whites has surely been unequalled. This book allows an amazing insight into this amazing man’s deepest feelings and convictions. It is rare to listen to such words of strength and determination! He was utterly committed to non violent protest. He had many successes but the fight goes on.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Lawrence
  • 07-23-17

inspiring

Wow! What an eloquent, poetic and awe inspiring autobiography of one of the greatest men to ever live. with rare recordings of MLK and gospel songs throughout the recording. This audio book is a must for all.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cat
  • 01-28-18

Powerful

You need to listen to this book. God bless Martin Luther King jnr and his family

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hiro
  • 07-19-17

One of the best I've ever listened to

Well edited and brilliantly narrated.

The greatest strength of this book is, of course, his towering speeches. And here lies the importance of this book as an audio format.
One can't help but being shaken by his rhetorical intelligence and an unparalleled power as an orator.
And a courage he possessed and a life lived according to his unflinching conviction of nonviolence.