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Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (P.S.) Paperback – December 31, 2013
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“The most comprehensive, the most thoroughly researched and documented, the most scholarly of the biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr.” (HENRY STEELE COMMAGER, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“Moving, scholarly, lucid, invaluable. ... The book on Martin Luther King.” (WILLIAM MANCHESTER, author of The Last Lion)
“Oates has written the most comprehensive account of King’s life yet published. ... Displays a remarkable understanding of King’s individual role in the civil rights movement. ... Helps us appreciate how sorely King is missed.” (ERIC FONER, New York Times Book Review)
“A monumental work. ... A stirring portrait.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Martin Luther King is captured in all his power, glory, and humility.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Clearly the best biography we have. ... Stirring. ... Evokes King and his epic struggle with you-are-there vividness.” (Newsday)
A Notable Book of the Year (New York Times Book Review)
About the Author
Stephen B. Oates is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. His books include Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. Oates has been awarded numerous honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Nevins-Freeman Award of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago for lifetime achievement in the field of Civil War studies.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is easy to view this situation in hindsight, and assume that everyone was just ignorant. Oates writes of the complex history, the battles within and outside "the movement" and how divided the nation was at the time. Oates also does not shirk away from many of Martin Luther King's personal weaknesses. In this sense, he humanizes the great leader, instead of canonizes him.
In the end, I am left with three conclusions:
1 - Martin Luther King Jr. indeed found a way to overcome hatred with love, and in doing so helped America avoid a race war.
2 - The message of civil rights was both religeous and personal. Despite today's views of the right being the party of religeon, in his day the southern liberal movement was galvanized in the church.
3 - Despite this, he was a flawed individual. His human weakness does not diminish his accomplishment.
The book is not light reading. Read it. Let it soak in. And comprehend.
Interesting that King was born to a family of preachers and that he was very highly educated. His education won him great honours and until circumstances intervened he anticipated a life as a scholar of comparative religion. He was also extremely well read in philosophy and sought desperately in his studies to answer questions about morality and social reform, being a huge fan of Gandhi. His talent in these fields was such that his professors expected great things from him.
However on completing his PhD he took a job a pastor in Montgomery, and very shortly found himself challenged to walk the walk his ideas led him to, a challenge which this biography says he never really flinched from his whole life.
This book presents a picture of a man who committed himself wholly to his work, almost from the beginning prepared to sacrifice just about everything, working incredible hours bringing deep thought and great eloquence to all his actions.
Along with his commitment to racial equality were a series of complex and carefully thought out political ideas about class, political reform, and also in later years the Vietnam war. Towards the end of his life his struggle broadened out to embrace these wider issues, much to the dismay of most of his more eminent followers. But then opposition was nothing new to him.
This book is also fascinating for what it reveals about the Kennedy brothers and Lyndon Johnson. It presents the picture of the Kennedys most people had at the time before the revisionists had a crack at them.
The picture of Johnson is extraordinary, but then seemingly he was. He passed a torrent of brilliantly marshalled and effective civil rights legislation which overnight solved many problems at a statutory level, and then moved on with equal vigour and efficiency to massively escalate a hugely destructive and pointless war.
This book is carefully researched as the notes reveal, but exceptionally easy to read as the scholarship is masked.
Although, I believe King made some serious mistakes, I understand for the first time why he should have a national holiday. I had no idea he was such an impressive person. Keep in mind, this book was written by a serious historian; not just someone who wished to canonize King.
My only disappointment is the abrupt ending. As a new to the subject non-American, I was really wanting an epilogue - something to summarise the future of the civil rights movement and King's legacy. To not include that was a huge let-down for an otherwise virtually faultless book. Now I know how he died but nothing about what happened after his funeral.
Despite that single flaw, I would heartily recommend this book as a fantastic introduction to the life of Martin Luther King.