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The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Paperback – January 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

By weaving together an unprecedented amount of material, including Dr. King's books, articles, essays, personal letters, and unpublished manuscripts, Clayborne Carson (historian, documentarian, and director of the King Papers Project) has crafted an excellent production that represents the unique medium of audiobooks at its very best. With the effective and engaging narration of actor Levar Burton as a foundation, the tapes provide understanding and insight into this important religious and political leader's powerful convictions. Original music from the civil rights movement, plus rare recordings of Dr. King's moving speeches and sermons, help create an inspiring portrait of one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. (Running time: 9 hours, 6 cassettes) --George Laney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project and author of A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., has pieced together an incomplete study of King's life by supplementing his extant autobiographies (e.g., Stride Toward Freedom and Where Do We Go from Here) with previously unpublished and published writings, interviews and speeches. If King's rhetorical flourishes and use of the word "negro" sometimes seem outdated, the compilation still offers a concise first-person account of his life from his birth in Atlanta in 1929 to his awakening social consciousness and discovery of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. History propelled King to center stage in the struggle for black liberation. When Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat in 1955, the "once dormant and quiescent Negro community was now fully awake" and King, along with many others in Montgomery's black community, organized the bus boycott that would launch King into his leadership role in the civil rights movement. The book offers glimpses of King's family life as well a view of famous Americans such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X and JFK. (In 1960, King did not feel "there was much difference between Kennedy and Nixon." He writes, "I felt at points that he was so concerned about being President of the United States that he would compromise basic principles.") But what is most evident throughout Carson's study is the moral courage that sustained King and allowed him to inspire a largely peaceful mass movement against segregation in the face of bloody reprisals. (Dec.) FYI: In November, Carol Publishing will release Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X, by his nephew Rodnell P. Collins. ($21.95 230p ISBN 1-55972-491-9)
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446676500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446676502
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Hilde Bygdevoll on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr." is Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson's amazing account of one of the most impressive leaders to have ever lived.
This is an outstanding biography and it accounts for the full story of Dr. King, literally from cradle to grave. Martin Luther King Jr. at university, when he met his wife Coretta, their children being born, the movement begins, fights and struggles, getting arrested etc. etc. Carson does an absolutely amazing job transporting the reader into Dr. King's thoughts, ideas and feelings. I have only read a couple of other biographies that I rank as high as I rank this one. The other two are Che Guevara and Malcolm X's biographies.
Few people are given strength, means and opportunity to make a real and great impact in the world. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only given such opportunity; he seized upon his opportunity as well. His fights and sacrifices made life better not only for millions of black people in America - his fight made the world a better place to be for all of us.
The author uses Dr. King's letters, college papers, and speeches; such as the "I have a dream" speech from 1963, and the Nobel Peace Prize speech from 1964 when telling his story. I had never read the whole "I have a dream" speech, so I greatly enjoyed that.
Carson has done a great jobs combining his own research with Dr. King's own speeches and writings and this is all masterfully woven together into a unique biography. Dr. King had a huge impact on the Civil Right movement, and he made his way into American history as one of its greatest, most charismatic leaders ever.
My recommendation is given for two reasons. Firstly, Dr. King is an extraordinary interesting subject, but also because of Carson's excellent job writing this biography.
Great read - highly recommended!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Stickley on December 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
When every child turns 16 in this country they should be required to read this book. I can't think of any other book that hit me so hard in the gut. Each page was a revelation, a call to humanity. MLK wasn't a saint but he was such a deeply focused, powerful person that his influence will be felt as long as this species roams this earth. Every chapter is perfectly put together, cohesive and augmented by personal papers, speeches, etc. the Editor knows his subject and it shows in the way the book, the story is organized. Simply inspirational.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Ryder on November 20, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
I was born the same year that MLK was assassinated, and grew up hearing snippets of his speeches on TV documentaries. I appreciated his stature as a leader in the abstract. Listening to his speeches on these tapes redoubled my esteem. I felt like I was there; I was really moved. The effect is different from, and maybe better than TV footage, because the mind's eye is not trapped watching the preselected pictures. You think more about MLK's message. Also, I give credit to Carson for setting the stage for each speech with good background information. Levar Burton reads it with passion in his voice.
My one criticism is that it is not really an autobiography, as it says on the cover. The background to MLK's speeches (which are the real recordings) is read in the first person, but is not something that he actually wrote. With more effort, the editors could have strung together enough original material by MLK and his correspondents to make a coherent narrative. For example, the one volume collection of Lincoln's writings edited by Roy Basler is just selected letters in order by date, but it reads like a gripping drama. That's a more honest and better approach.
Still, I am really pleased and proud to be the owner of these MLK tapes. I give them six months before I wear them out.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mort Coyle on February 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
February is Black History Month, something which--to be totally honest--I'm usually completely unaware of. I'm not just unaware of when Black History Month occurs, but pretty ignorant about Black History in general.

Last week I began reading The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had purchased it a while back at the same time that I bought Gandhi's autobiography. I've been following the trail of non-violent thought from the Anabaptists to the Quakers to Leo Tolstoy to Gandhi to Martin Luther King (and points in-between). So MLK was the next stop on my journey. I only discovered last week after getting half-way into the book that February is Black History Month. I learned this by seeing a placard on the side of a bus.

Dr. King's autobiography was not intentionally written by it's subject, in the same way that Gandhi's autobiography was. King was assassinated before he could write this work himself. Instead, his autobiography was assembled by King scholar Clayborne Carson (at the request of Coretta Scott King) by carefully gathering and collating King's public and private writings into a cohesive narrative. Carson did a masterful job, as King's voice and personality consistently shines through. One really has the sense that this is the autobiography King would have written had his life not been cut short.

I had not expected to become so quickly engrossed in this book. Obviously I knew who Martin Luther King was, but this was my first opportunity to really see what an amazing man he was. King was an intellectual giant, yet also an extremely humble and honest man. He was a brilliant theologian and scholar, but consistently chose to identify himself with the lowest of the low in society. He was incredibly, well ... Christian ... in the true sense of the word.
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