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Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader (Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century) Hardcover – November 14, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0813125206 ISBN-10: 0813125200 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; 1 edition (November 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813125200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813125206
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Jackson (senior pastor, University Christian Church, Cincinnati; editor, The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. 6: Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948–March 1963) has written a convincing reinterpretation of the role of King in the Montgomery, AL, bus boycott of 1955–56. Jackson grants that King's inspirational oratory and ability to communicate to African Americans across class lines made him a powerful symbol and chief spokesman of the movement there. However, the black community in Montgomery had laid the groundwork through its organizing activities in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Local activists, white and black, including NAACP leader E.D. Nixon and Women's Political Council president Jo Ann Robinson, as well as civil rights lawyers Virginia and Clifford Durr and librarian Juliette Morgan, planted the seeds that flowered in the boycott. Jackson concludes that in many ways, King did not make the boycott movement; the blacks of Montgomery made him. Highly recommended for all major libraries.—Anthony Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


""Jackson reiterates not just how King changed Montgomery's African Americans, but how they changed King; not just the absolutely significant role King played in the boycott, but what King derived from the boycott experience." Harvard Sitkoff, author of King: Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop" --

""In this excellent book, Troy Jackson offers a superb, nuanced account of Martin Luther King's relationship with Rufus Lewis, E.D. Nixon, JoAnn Robinson, Rosa Parks, and other key figures in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. A thorough researcher, Jackson argues convincingly that local activists in Montgomery decisively shaped King's identity as a civil rights leader."--Keith D. Miller, author of Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its Sources" --

""The author's comprehensive analysis of King's sermons before, during and after the boycott artfully depicts a man in transition, from naive do-gooder to world-changer. Jackson's treatment of Montgomery in the post-boycott era offers new insight into the void in leadership and the fractious infighting among the movement's luminaries after King departed the scene. An informed investigation of the struggles that defined a time and place -- and the man who gave them a voice."-- Kirkus Reviews" --

""I know that King biographies comprise a genre unto themselves, and many are near classic in stature. This brand new one, still, stands out."-- Hearts & Minds Books Blog" --

""This account of the Montgomery desegregation struggle benefits from a subtle shift in focus to the ordinary men and women who served as the foot soldiers in the 1955 bus boycott. Jackson's storytelling skill and broad perspective make this a worthy addition to the literature of the U.S. civil rights movement."-- Publishers Weekly" --

""Jackson does a wonderful job of demonstrating how King found the voice we know so well today and how the principles of non-violence that are so central to who King was were developed during his time in Montgomery."-- Indianapolis Star" --

""Immerse yourself in the people around King, and Martin Luther King's trials, oratory and strategizing in his fight for civil rights for all Americans."-- NDW Waterline" --

""Troy Jackson makes an important connection between King's early history and his ultimate role as a civil rights leader of the modern movement."-- Tennessee Historical Commission" --

""Jackson's research and conclusions are vital to any attempt at fully understanding King's rise in prominence."-- Anniston Star" --

""Becoming King is an interesting read filled with several new layers of information. Jackson effectively uses King's words to provide a boycott narrative that illuminates several aspects of the famous civil rights leader's ideological development and how King was able to inspire the working class of Montgomery to sacrifice their only means of transportation."-- Southwest Journal of Cultures" --

""This short, well-written, and thoroughly researched account of the forces that made King a national leader should be studied by every student of the modern civil rights movement."-- Multicultural Review" --

""Jackson writes well of the transformation that took place, valuing the input of the Montgomery leaders and community to the minister's 'becoming King.' Highly recommended."-- Choice" --

""Becoming King would be a wonderful addition for advanced high school and college students involved in history, religion, sociology...the themes he explores offer a thoughtful basis for debate and discussion not only about King and the civil rights era but the complexities and challenges of social change in our society."-- Teaching History: A Journal of Methods" --

""Jackson shows in glowing detail how King raised the sights of a local movement to encompass large moral issues and shaped the black struggle for freedom into a human rights movement with international dimensions...This a fundamental freedom movement primer."-- Journal of American History" --

""[Becoming King] illuminates how ordinary people's commitments to human rights and nonviolence inspired King as much, if not more, than he inspired them.... Troy Jackson abundantly demonstrates how King's religious faith drew strength from mass struggle."-- American Historical Review" --

""Jackson's book is a finely conceived and well-crafted volume that deepens our understanding and appreciation of the young King.... this study is not only a refreshing approach and great contribution to King scholarship but also a rich addition to the literature on southern religious historiography and culture."-- Journal of Southern History" --

""[Jackson] tells a remarkable story about how the local people of Montgomery in their fight for racial equality helped to shape the life of one of the world's greatest civil rights leaders."-- Alabama Review" --

""Becoming King explores the iconic leader's first and most sustained intimate connection with local people within the civil rights movement. As such, the monograph provides further contemplation of King's legacy along with its place in the ever burgeoning civil rights literature."-- Georgia Historical Quarterly" --

""Becoming King is a concise and credible introductory text for students at the undergraduate level. Like effective, nuanced treatments of other wise monumental personages, Jackson humanizes Martin Luther King Jr., without diminishing his greatness."-- Journal of African American History" --

""Jackson provides a handy bibliography and a fine narrative of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama."-- American Studies" --

""Clearly and persuasively written... should not only inform but also challenge reader to think more deeply about faith under pressure and about one's responsibilities to promote social and economic justice." -- Restoration Quarterly" --

""An important addition to the growing shelf of America's most famous civil rights leader."--Historian" --

""Anyone interested in Martin Luther King's growth into the man and icon we have come to cherish would do well by starting with this well-written, richly researched contribution to the historical literature." -- Louisiana History" --

More About the Author

Troy Jackson is the director of the AMOS Project in Cincinnati, an organization that works with congregations, clergy, and faith leaders to work for racial and economic justice. Previously, Troy served as pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati for nearly 19 years. He has an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in United States History from the University of Kentucky.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Miller on January 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The maturing process is a journey full of "seasonings". We crawl before we walk. We babble before we speak. Most of us view Dr. King's life from sound bites and cliff notes bios that give us more of a mythic hero as opposed to a flesh and blood man.

Before Martin Luther King made it to the mountaintop, he spent a great deal of time building a base. This base was Montgomery, Alabama, where Dr. King learned to walk and find his voice and his impeccable sense of timing. Troy's exhaustive research has given us the gift of insight into the making of not just a leader but of a movement of which he became King. Troy reminds us of the people, decisions and timing that all came together to give Dr. King and the rest of the world a view from the mountaintop.

This is a fascinating and enjoyable read, especially in light of our recent election. I would highly recommend it for any student of history or leadership.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John A. Bird on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Troy Jackson, author of Becoming King, says that it was the people of Montgomery who shaped Martin Luther King Jr. rather than Martin Luther King Jr. who shaped the people of Montgomery.

Civil rights advocate Virginia Durr described Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950's as a place of "death, decay, corruption, frustration, bitterness and sorrow." And Jackson convinces us that she wasn't exaggerating. Blacks were oppressed, intimidated, and abused, and they were ready for change. Durr wrote: "I think the Negroes are stirring and they won't be held down much longer."

Through Jackson's thorough research and extensive quotes, we come to know and appreciate many of the African Americans working for change in Montgomery before King arrived--those like E.D. Nixon, a Pullman Porter and "tireless fighter for justice," and his secretary, "a local seamstress" named Rosa Parks. Along with Nixon, there were other courageous men like Vernon Johns, pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist church, who posted the title of an upcoming sermon on the church billboard (which was only a block from the State Capitol): "It's Safe to Murder Negroes in Alabama." But Jackson shows that it was the women who were most essential to the movement:

"Though many black men in the city were just as frustrated with the racial status quo, they had more to lose by being outspoken. Whites believed they had much more to fear from black men, and therefore they responded more quickly, and often violently, to any who got out of line. As whites fixed their attention on black men, several black women were stirring the waters of racial change in Montgomery."

When the young Martin Luther King Jr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Perkins on February 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a fully readible yet well researched book that gives more information than any other has done on the black activist movement in Montgomery Alabama before Martin Luther King, Jr. came there to his first church pastorship. The black activist leaders who preceded King there laid the groundwork that made the famous bus boycott possible, and which in the beginning, in effect, led King into the civil rights movement. Once in, he began to lead the Montgomery uprising against the obscene bus practices, but in the beginning he was following the lead of others who had been long working for black causes in Montgomery. The author shows how much King learned from this experience, much of it from the working people who never faltered in their perseverence in a boycott that required big sacrifices from them, things leaned by King that went with him as he moved beyond Montgomery onto the national scene. Anyone who wants to understand the early development of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a (in my mind) great revolutionary leader, to be ranked with Washington and Lincoln, should read this book.
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