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The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Paperback – June 27, 1905
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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 King's books, articles, essays, personal letters, and unpublished manuscripts, Clayborne Carson (historian, documentarian, and director of the King Papers Project) has crafted an excellent production that represents the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 the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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by supplementing his extant autobiographies (e.g., Stride Toward Freedom and Where Do We Go from Here) with previously unpublished and published writings, interviews and speeches. If King's rhetorical flourishes and use of the word "negro" sometimes seem outdated, the compilation still offers a concise first-person account of his life from his birth in Atlanta in 1929 to his awakening social consciousness and discovery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 the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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For this book, he weaves through with a leadership lesson in each chapter - and generally places the lesson tied directly to something King did - trying to stay close to chronological order. He also supplies us with key quotes from King at the beginning and end of each chapter - for a quick summary and overview.
Phillips sets the context in which King operated. This is huge! I don't believe you can't fully understand without immersing in the history, the mindset, the goings on of the time. Phillips doesn't assume the reader is familiar with King. He doesn't assume the reader knows the circumstances of King's time. Phillips pulls the reader in; explaining the leadership trait King embodied; he explains what in King's past helped him to get here. He explains the historical context of what the culture was like, what current events caused the situation, what players were involved and a little on their mindset and background. He points out how even a great man like King made mistakes, how we evaluated his successes and failures, and how he grew and improved throughout.
King's life was short and was lived mainly before I was born - he died at age 39 - and had learned more and accomplished more than many that lived to be twice his age. Being a student of leadership, but someone who knew very little about King, I chose this book to learn about both. It inspired me to read more about King. I am amazed at how he put his principles before even fear of criticism, family threats, and even death. I think the reader will learn a lot about King, his struggles, his faith, his life, his goals, and especially his leadership style. Yet, for burgeoning leaders, it is very insightful. It will make someone think about whether they truly want to be a leader and what sacrifices they are willing to make.
Phillips makes this an easy read - but not an easy one to just race through without reflection.
King was most certainly a Christian. He grew up in a Christian home, he went to Seminary, he became a minister and pastored a Church. He spoke of a personal relationship with Jesus. He depended on God for strength during difficult times, he prayed to Jesus, he worshiped Jesus, he preached about Jesus, and led a congregation of Jesus followers. If that's not Christian nothing is. Yet his theology was decidedly liberal. He was embarrassed by his fundamentalist upbringing, especially those who would check their minds in at the door of Church and stomp their feet during the service. He spoke candidly about denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and embracing the liberal view of man. However he was an honest man, who at times questioned his presuppositions. I was impressed how he preached a Gospel that led to action in the present world. Not just a gospel of Sunday pieties.
In story after story King recounted how he was committed to nonviolence because this was the way of Jesus (and Gandhi whom he was later influenced by). He didn't preach hatred of white people, but reconciliation, with an aim to a fully integrated society. If anyone had reason to hate it was King. His home was bombed, his friends homes were bombed, he and his family were verbally abused and threatened, he was stabbed, he was arrested more times than I can count, and was often the victim of gross injustice. Yet in all that he showed the world that he served another Lord, and preached a different Gospel. Violence, only begets more violence. My heart broke for those who suffered during the era of segregation. At times I was almost reduced to tears, reading about the horrors of what mankind has done to each other. Not only that but I finally came to understand a little of what it was like to grow up as a Black Man in a climate of racism, to suffer under such terrible injustice, disrespect and disenfranchisement. Blessed are the peacemakers like Dr King, for they will be called the children of God.
Yet there were times I felt that King's liberalism got the better of him. I felt that King's idea of heaven on earth was simply an integrated society where everyone had equal opportunity to all state services, good jobs, and so on. Yet this idea doesn't go far enough. What about personal repentance and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit? Can non-violent action really bring this about? Does it treat the symptoms rather than the root cause of the issue? What God's kingdom coming to earth, and us anticipating it in the present, but recognizing it is a future reality? He condemned violent protest, and distanced himself from people like Malcolm X but didn't call on those who had been violent to repent and follow Jesus. Many times he simply rationalized their violence as the understandable reaction of those who had suffered for too long. He often saw the suffering of the negro community as redemptive. But that is to give the community too much power, and a job that only Jesus can truly accomplish. If King meant that through their suffering and weakness, they embodied Jesus' suffering, and pointed people more fully towards Christ, then I have no issues. King's views on poverty and military action were a little naive. Giving away surplus food from the western world to store it in the empty bellies of hungry Indian Children, is a noble thought, but nothing more than a short term solution to a systemic problem. Giving away food like that can drive down the prices of local produce and cause more harm for the local economy than good.
Yet those quibbles aside, this is still a fantastic book. Towards the end it gets a little dry and repetitive, but is very readable. If you only read one book on the Civil rights movement and it's pivotal leader, read this one.
"True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power, as Niebuhr contends. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflictor of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart." - "The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King, Jr." Edited by Clayborne Carson, Pg. 26