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Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources + There Goes My Everything: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, 1945-1975 + Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (Landmark Law Cases and American Society)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820320137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820320137
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,850,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Miller (English, Arizona State) has written a complex, convincing analysis of the sources of King's major sermons and public works. In brief, Miller argues that King borrowed ideas, patterns, words, even whole paragraphs from two main sources: white Protestant ministers' radio sermons and the traditions of the African American folk pulpit. King melded these "borrowings" into consistently powerful sermons for social change. To Miller, this was not plagiarism, but perfectly consistent with the American homiletic tradition. King's ability to reshape old works was his greatest rhetorical strength. Miller's study provides a fascinating counterpoint to recent attacks on King's originality. It is highly recommended for all major libraries.
- A.O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Significantly extends and enriches our understanding of the real roots of Martin Luther King Jr.'s eloquence and the centrality of the church in King's life."--David Garrow

"Miller's discoveries amount to a major reevaluation of our current understanding of King as a thinker and leader."--New York Newsday

"This well-researched book . . . achieve[s] a groundbreaking understanding of King's ability to motivate Americans to achieve social change.”--Washington Post Book World

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Nothstine on December 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Keith D. Miller does a good job examining the sources of Martin Luther King Jr. and explaining their significance. King was very successfull as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in America because he effectively appealed to many white moderates. By quoting the founding fathers he was able to appeal to the broader American tradition. By borrowing and blending from black and white tradtions of speech and language, King was all the more effective at uniting people. There is obviously a considerable amount of informaton on Ghandi within Miller's publication. I think much more attention should have been focused on King's borrowing from Aquinas and natural law, which is so clearly evident in King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail." I found it also interesting that King borrowed sources from contemporary white preachers as well as historical figures. Of all the criticisms you could throw at King, he was still very very intelligent.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Coffman on September 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This superb book deserves to be widely read. It is well known that King plagiarised much of his academic work and many of the passages from his sermons and speeches, but Miller compelling explains this practice as the hallmark of the oral culture of African American religion that produced its finest example in King himself. Although Miller doesn't cite classical literature, King's method of creating his own unique works from the building blocks of others is a central and completely accepted insight into scholarship on Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, and it is well known that Shakespeare closely followed the plots of third rate plays to produce his own masterpieces.
Miller also shows how the courageous resistance of African Americans against centuries of slavery produced a profound gospel of deliverance that was a concentrated version of Judeo-Christian doctrines, pared to its essentials and vivid enough to sustain people through seemingly hopeless injustice and oppression, indeed, with the power to motivate people to lay down their lives, if necessary. It was this doctrine of deliverance that King delivered to America and the world, electrifying the consciences and imaginations of white Americans, and providing leadership of the highest quality to the many brave African Americans who were determined to end the injustice of racism in America.
This is a fine and inspiring book about a great American, Dr. M. L. King, Jr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Conor Cunneen on December 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
An interesting, sometime heavy book for the serious student of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Author Keith Miller shows how much of King's material, language imagery and content is derived from two sources -the oral traditions of the African-American folk church which this inspirational speaker heard from his father and associates as he grew up, but also the printed sermons of white Protestant preachers.

In thoroughly researched material, Miller shows how King uses other voices and verbatim imagery in his public speeches and essays. In today's climate, King might be accused of plagiarism. The motivational imagery and inspirational words of possibly the finest speaker of the twentieth century were often not his own.

Miller writes persuasively though that the African-American culture was one of oral storytelling rather than written. Thus well received religious stories and anecdotes were constantly reprocessed by speakers. None of King's colleagues upbraided this inspirational speaker for `stealing' their material.

In A Call to Conscience, Rosa Parks write that Dr. King would spend fifteen hours preparing a speech. While not disagreeing with this notion, Miller does suggest that a significant number of King's speeches were ghost written. I was surprised to read that King's anti-Vietnam war speech "A Time to Break Silence" was written primarily by Vincent Harding with contributions from Andrew Young. Given the immense detail and historical perspective in the Vietnam speech, a style different to the broad brush imagery which Dr. King normally used so effectively, it is a credible contention.

Even one of King's finest pieces Letter from Birmingham Jail owes much to other sources.
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