The Radical King

Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4.5 out of 5 stars (706 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Wanda Sykes, LeVar Burton, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Gabourey Sidibe head a cast of beloved actors performing 23 selections from the speeches, sermons, and essays of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—many never recorded during his lifetime. For the first time, teachers, students, and thoughtful listeners can hear dramatic interpretations of Dr. King’s words, chosen and introduced by Cornel West.

Many Americans didn’t experience Dr. Martin Luther King’s oratory, or the hope and fears of the Civil Rights era. His words and dreams remain relevant, necessary, and inspirational today. The Radical King was a labor of love for Audible, the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and an A-list team of activist voice talent. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2015 Coretta Scott King and the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Cornel West (Introductions) (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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Our favorite moments from The Radical King

No work is menial if... (Wanda Sykes)
Equal respect... (Mike Colter)
Love brings transformation... (Gabourey Sidibe)

  • The Radical King
  • No work is menial if... (Wanda Sykes)
  • The Radical King
  • Equal respect... (Mike Colter)
  • The Radical King
  • Love brings transformation... (Gabourey Sidibe)

Activist Voices and Radical Words You'll Hear in the Audiobook

Cornel West has organized 23 speeches, sermons, and essays thematically into four parts, illuminating them with recorded introductions.

Radical Love

1. The Violence of Desperate Men, read by Bahni Turpin
2. Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi, read by Kevin R. Free
3. Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, read by Gabourey Sidibe
4. Loving Your Enemies, read by LeVar Burton
5. What is Your Life’s Blueprint?, read by Michael K. Williams

Prophetic Visions

6. The World House, read by Colman Domingo
7. All the Great Religions of the World, read by Mike Colter
8. My Jewish Brother, read by Colman Domingo
9. The Middle East Question, read by Leslie Odom, Jr.
10. Let My People Go, read by Bahni Turpin
11. Honoring Dr. Du Bois, read by Danny Glover

Nonviolent Resistance

12. Letter From Birmingham Jail, read by Leslie Odom, Jr.
13. Nonviolence and Social Change, read by LeVar Burton
14. My Talk With Ben Bella, read by Colman Domingo
15. Jawaharlal Nehru, A Leader in the Long Anti-Colonial Struggle, read by Kevin R. Free
16. Where Do We Go From Here?, read by Mike Colter
17. Black Power, read by Wanda Sykes
18. Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, read by Robin Miles

Poverty and Hatred

19. The Bravest Man I Ever Met, read by Michael K. Williams
20. The Other America, read by Wanda Sykes
21. All Labor Has Dignity, read by Kevin R. Free
22. The Drum Major Instinct, read by Mike Colter
23. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, read by Bahni Turpin

About the Performer

Wanda Sykes first came to national prominence as a comedian and writer on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special in 1999. She won another three Emmy Awards as a correspondent on Inside the NFL. Entertainment Weekly declared her one of the "25 Funniest People in America" in 2004. Sykes made history in 2009 as the first African-American woman, and first openly gay comedian, to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. On television, she has written, produced, and starred in her own comedy specials for Comedy Central, Fox, and HBO, and performed to wide acclaim on Curb Your Enthusiasm, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and black-ish. You can hear her voice in animated features such as Ice Age: Continental Drift, Over the Hedge, and Rio.

About the Performer

Mike Colter is an actor best known for playing the superhero Luke Cage in Marvel’s Luke Cage, The Defenders, and Jessica Jones, all set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is also recognized for his TV drama series roles as Lemond Bishop in The Good Wife and Malcolm Ward in Ringer. He made his big screen debut in Million Dollar Baby, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Picture, opposite Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. Colter knew he wanted to be an actor at the age of eight when he saw the film A Soldier’s Story. He made his stage debut 21 years later in the 2005 revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play.

About the Performer

Three-time Emmy nominee Michael K. Williams initially rose to fame with his remarkable work as Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire, and later as Chalky White on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He received his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie for his role as Jack Gee in HBO’s Bessie and subsequently his second Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role as Freddy Knight in HBO’s critically acclaimed The Night Of. Other TV credits include When We Rise, The Spoils Before Dying, and Community. Film credits include 12 Years a Slave, The Gambler, Gone Baby Gone, and RoboCop. Giving back to the community also plays an important role in Williams’s off-camera life. He is the founder of Making Kids Win, a charitable organization whose primary objective is to build community centers in urban neighborhoods that are in need of safe spaces for children to learn and play.

About the Performer

Gabourey Sidibe made her acting debut in the title role of the 2009 film Precious. Her breakthrough performance earned her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. She has appeared in the movies Tower Heist, White Bird in a Blizzard, Yelling to the Sky, and The Brothers Grimsby. On television, she has portrayed unforgettable characters in Showtime’s The Big C and two installments of FX’s American Horror Story, as Queenie in Coven and Regina in Freak Show. In 2015, she joined Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in the cast of the Fox series Empire.

About the Performer

Leslie Odom, Jr., is best known for his breakout role as Aaron Burr in the smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and a Grammy Award as a principal soloist on the original cast recording. Making his Broadway debut in Rent at age 17, he also starred in the stage adaptation of Leap of Faith. His off-Broadway work includes Venice and the original staging of Hamilton, both at the Public Theater. He also starred opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo in a 2014 City Center Encores! revival of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick ... BOOM!. Odom was most recently seen on the big screen in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. His previous film work includes the 2012 historical drama Red Tails, as part of an all-star cast that included Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and David Oyelowo. On television, he starred in the cult-classic musical drama series Smash and had recurring roles on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and CBS’s Persons of Interest and CSI: Miami. In the spring of 2018, Odom added the title “Author” to his resume with the release of his book Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning, which he also performed for Audible.

These additional performers


Danny Glover
Danny Glover is a distinguished actor and humanitarian. In addition to winning an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead in 1991, he has received the President’s Award from the NAACP and the BET Humanitarian Award in 2004. He is best known for his performances in the Lethal Weapon movies, Dreamgirls, Beloved, and The Color Purple.

LeVar Burton
Since first gaining fame as one of the stars of the groundbreaking TV series Roots, LeVar Burton has starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He won 12 Emmy Awards as the host and executive producer of the long-running PBS children’s show Reading Rainbow.

Colman Domingo
Olivier and Tony Award-nominated actor and GLAAD and Lucille Lortel Award-winning playwright Colman Domingo is known for his work on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead.

Kevin R. Free
Actor and playwright Kevin R. Free is best known for his performances in Gemma & the Bear!, Jack in a Box, and Blindspot.

Robin Miles
Robin Miles’ strong, powerful voice has made her a favorite among listeners as they respond to her many nuanced performances. She’s been the voice of such powerful pieces as Hidden Figures, the basis for the hit movie, and Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State.

Bahni Turpin
Bahni Turpin was Audible's Narrator of the Year in 2016 and inducted into Audible's Narrator Hall of Fame in 2017. She is a multiple Audie Award winner and nominee, with numerous credits on stage and screen. Among the groundbreaking works she's narrated are The Hate U Give, The Underground Railroad, and Sister of Mine.

About the Author

The Radical King is a unique collaboration—a labor of love—among the estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., editor Cornel West, Beacon Press, and Audible. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated as one of the greatest orators in US history and honored as an ambassador for nonviolence who became the most recognizable leader of the civil rights movement. He has long been an Audible member favorite with titles such as The Essential Box Set: The Landmark Speeches and Sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gospel of Freedom (including "Letter From Birmingham Jail" and "The Struggle that Changed a Nation"), and Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community.

About the Editor

Dr. Cornel West, the son of civil rights activists, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, obtained his MA and PhD in philosophy at Princeton, and has authored 19 books, including Race Matters. Whenever listeners grapple with the effects of "radical conditioned-ness" in society or in The Matrix, the ideas of Cornel West illuminate the discussion.

His teaching positions have included Yale, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Paris, and Union Theological Seminary.

What members say

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An Alternative View of Martin Luther King

A thought-provoking listen made enjoyable by the many famous actors who read key Martin Luther King Jr speeches, articles and letters, which show King in a more radical light. Here, you will find King's finest work "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "Black Power" in which he discusses his feelings about using this as a slogan when Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) introduced it. Cornel West provides an introduction for each piece of King's writing providing an understanding of King's views in a radical context.

20 people found this helpful

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Not the best MLK audiobook

There’s some gold in here but I’d recommend MLK’s “autobiography” over this as an audiobook. This book is a similar approach - collected King writings. Instead of being all in King’s voice, they’re interspersed by Cornel West interludes. At times he’s trying too hard with hundred-dollar words, at others he’s telling you what King “would have” done/believed in modern situations. You can tell he’s passionate about King, and the earlier ones are stronger, but many don’t add much. The narrators are uneven. The best are very good (while obviously falling short of the man himself). The worst are uninspired readings, some mispronouncing words. The autobiography is Levar Burton interspersed with actual MLK recordings and is a MUCH better audiobook.

13 people found this helpful

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I didn’t know

I grew up in Atlanta. Countless visits to the King memorial. I never knew anything beyond the I have a dream speech. As much as I regret the blindfold I’ve had on, I’m so grateful to the people that put this work of art together that I’ve been able to digest the last 2 weeks. And the wonderful thing is I was finally influenced by the medium of sports media (bomani Jones show) to even think that Dr. King was a radical.

6 people found this helpful

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Remember Martin Luther King

50 years ago, an assassin killed Martin Luther King. King led the country through the ugliness of civil wrongs connected to the Vietnam War, and we remember him for his Gandhi-like leadership. What is forgotten is his weaponized non-violence and his belief in socialism. Americ beatifies our heroes, which is what we've done with MLK.

This book, edited by Cornel West, is a compilation of King's speeches. The words remind of why I so admired him. The audible version employs a wide variety of actors and actresses to read the King's words. I might have preferred to hear MLK, but this demonstrated that the real power is in words, not the speaker.

50 years later and his words are not dated. I would not be surprised to hear these speeches from Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

I miss his voice, his words, his leadership.

23 people found this helpful

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Hearing Truth

Listen and feel the truth of radical love permeate your body and soul. The only way to deny it is to let the great eternal lie block your senses.

The radical revolution is as valid today as it was in the time of King.

Fifty years and this old white man still mourns his tragic death.



4 people found this helpful

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Narrations are fine, but it isn't King's voice

Summary: If all you remember from Martin Luther King Jr is his "I have a dream…” speech, The Radical King will round out his legacy.

Last week I finished up an audiobook collection of Howard Thurman’s sermons, prayers, and teachings. What I loved about it was that it was actually Thurman’s voice. The quality was not up to current standards, but there was value in hearing his actual voice. The problem with the collection was that it was mostly snippets of content, rarely more than 10 minutes of any particular talk.

The Radical King, edited by Cornel West has the opposite problem. This is full-length sermons or speeches, but they are read by modern celebrity narrators. All of the narrators do a fine job and the audio quality is excellent, but it is not King’s voice and King’s voice is one of the most recognizable of the last century. The reality is that for both of these collections, there are just limitations based on what is available. Cornel West is trying to give insight into the breadth of King’s thinking. Radical seems to promise a bit too much, King was radical for his time, but while there was an article celebrating, Norman Thomas, a prominent socialist, there was also more than one instance of King showing why he was not a communist or socialist.

The Radical King does a good job showing the changes toward the end of his life, paying more attention to economic issues, speaking to a trade union, or his anti-Vietnam bent. He also addresses the Black Power movement, colonialism, antisemitism, and throughout it all, his strong commitment to anti-violence. There are prominent talks or articles here, like The Drum Major Instinct, the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop and Where Do We Go From Here. But the emphasis is on is lesser know work.

Cornel West is not particularly trying to show his Christianity here, but as always with King, that faith shines through in almost everything that Martin Luther King Jr says and does.

2 people found this helpful

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A much fuller picture of an extraordinary human being

I was a young man when Dr. King was taken from us. As a man now in my early 70’s the Radical King brought me back to a time of discontent, with the perspective of over fifty years, which highlights his strength as a leader for all people and a man of vision, passion and faith. His message still rings loudly today and I am grateful for the sharing of his love, strength and non-violence.

2 people found this helpful

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Was hoping for more analysis

There's a few pieces that I haven't heard already but honestly about half of the book seemed to be speeches that you can hear from King himself relatively easily.

I'd recommend for someone just learning about MLK - but if you've already read/ listened to his work it may not be the best use of your time.

8 people found this helpful

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Book was a waste of my time.

The book was fine until they started pushing religion and praising anti-black racist Mahatma Gandhi. It was fine during King’s time when the truth about Gandhi was being suppressed, but the author should of known better.

1 person found this helpful

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Revisionist history.

Calls MLK the most dangerous man in America. Falsely claimed he was not really concerned with race issues but Marxist class warfare.

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  • Jordan
  • 09-07-19

11-hour biblical battering-ram to the head

Martin Luther King was such a wonderful man, and his labour strikes are what enamoured me to him. But this book, my goodness, really was an ordeal to get through. It was like having a bible repeatedly, and painfully rammed down my throat relentlessly. For long stretches of time, you realise just how poorly the bible and Christianity has served the African American communities so affected by racism - it lumbers people who have an absolute right to justice with absolutely addling garbage that tells people to submit to a god and pray their way to justice. Love your enemy but stand your ground and gain equality through action! All power, to all the people.

So much of this book is just an excuse to inject biblical babble into simple concepts. Racism is bad because we're all human, and skin colour, just like class, is abstract and meaningless. Labour rights are important because everyone deserves fairness. Quite easy to express no?

This book expresses those two simple concepts with the word "JESUS" so many times, you want to take Cornel West and ram a bible up his behind sideways. You want my support and solidarity against class, racism, capitalism, inequality, injustice - you will always have it and I will never tire of your eloquence. You want my ear when you're talking about racism and class, inequality and greed? You have it, you're wonderful. You want to wax lyrical about JHAYYYSUUSSS for hours on end? Take a hike!

Honestly, I love Cornel West and the rest, but after hearing 11 hours of absolute biblical rubbish I put this book down, deleted it off my phone, and I will never, ever, read it again. What a bunch of complete drivel.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-14-18

Radical love

Martin Luther King Jnr's radical love, the conscientious power of the civil rights movement and the power evident in Dr Wests deep love for King moved me to my tears on numerous occasions. Kings radical love has galvanised in me my commitment to the power of radical love in my own life and the communities to which I belong.