Penguin Lives Martin Luther King Jr Hardcover – Jan 17 2002
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Unheroic in appearance, given to "deacon-sober suits" and "ponderous gravity," Martin Luther King Jr. ushered in an epochal era of change in the United States. Closely watching King's journey from Montgomery to Birmingham to the Lincoln Memorial to Memphis was journalist Marshall Frady, who honors the minister's achievement and spirit in this lucid biography.
"Almost a geological age ago, it seems now--that great moral saga of belief and violence that unfolded in the musky deeps of the South during the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties." So Frady opens his account, which traces King's transformation from withdrawn, unconfident child to eloquent champion of the oppressed, ever unafraid to trouble the waters. Frady explores King's conflicts, contradictions, and triumphs, as well as the great personal cost he bore in urging nonviolent change in a singularly violent time.
Part of the excellent Penguin Lives series, this slender volume sheds much light on a prophet now honored, but still too little understood. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
When Dr. King made the cover as Time's Man of the Year in 1963, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover "snorted in a remark passed around the Bureau, `They had to dig deep in the garbage for this one.'" It is details such as this that make this short biography of a much-written about subject both potent and illuminating. For the latest entry in the Penguin Lives series, Frady (Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson) has produced a sharp, politically insightful, emotionally astute and psychologically complex portrait of a man whose complicated life and work is often reduced to simplistic hagiography. While this biography uses a standard chronological narrative as its spine, Frady constantly reframes facts and their accepted meanings with new information that gives readers fresh, often startling interpretations, or reminds us of facts that have slipped to the periphery (Rosa Parks was not simply a woman who refused to change her seat on the bus, but an active member of the NAACP who knew the political implications of her act). Never shying away from controversial topics, such as King's deep rage against the U.S. war in Vietnam or the plagiarized portions of his writing, Frady also perceptively analyzes how King's political strategizing emerged from his often conflicted emotional needs many of his bold, decisive gains for the civil rights movement were predicated on a Clintonian need for contact and adulation, according to the author. Yet Frady's sensitive, succinct presentation never lets King's foibles obscure his tremendous contributions to American life. (Jan.)Forecast: With such titles as Edna O'Brien's James Joyce and Wayne Koestenbaum's recent Andy Warhol, the Penguin Lives series has propagated a distinctive form of biography, drawing heavily on the magazine profile form. A few readers may be starting to follow the series as a whole and will pick this up; others will find reacquaintance with King's nonviolent tactics for liberation a refreshing read in difficult times.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
At age fifteen, after graduating very early from highschool, the rather unmotivated King attended Morehouse College. After graduating from Morehouse, King went on to attend Cruzed Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania,where he was to become a preacher like his father. It was here that King seemingly grew up; he studied hard, became class president, and graduated as valdictorian. When King proposed to Coretta Scott in the early 1950s he was already engaged to a few other former girlfriends from back home. They married in 1953, spending their honeymoon night in the basement of a funeral parlor because the nearest hotels and motels were segregated.
In 1954 the newlyweds moved to Montgomery Alabama where the young King became the highly respected preacher at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.King's life would shortly change when he was asked to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted over a year.Eventually he joined the NAACP and began the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King was arrested several times for his non-violent actions. During one of these incidents he composed his famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." He befriended the Kennedy brothers (somewhat) in their effort to help the movement. On August 28, 1963 King recited his, "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, by a sniper, James Earl Ray.
Mr. Frady was one of those reporters assigned to interpret and bring some sense of clarity to the public about the rising civil rights movement and its major leader, King. As a young reporter, he carried out his mission and now as an older statesman of the press he gives us another view about King, his work and his impact on the national scene.
Martin Luther King, Jr. focuses on the success, failures and conflicts of a leader caught in a movement that swept him up into the pinacles of history. We see another dimension of King who is vain, unorganized, guilt ridden and a womanizer. His lieutenants are egotistical, mystical, self-serving and dedicated to the cause of freedom. King's genius in keepint these varied personalities in check for a greater cause is a testament to his genius.
Frady really doesn't tell the reader anything new about King that hasn't been said before. He merely encapsulates previous information into a format that is readily accessible to those who want to get a brief history of King and the movement but can't endure reading works of countless pages of information. In this Frady excels and does a fine job of being brief but doesn't offer the reader in better insights about the man.
I would recommend this book to those who want to get a brief snapshot of King from the perspective of a white southerner. Otherwise I would encourage readers to explore other books that give a more in depth look at the complex life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
A theme of this book is how Dr. King's moral vision and achievement emerged from moral conflict. Dr King spent most of his career walking a difficult path between extremes. At the beginning of his career, he was criticized by the more conservative black establishment which preferred to use the courts rather than demonstrations as a means to promote racial equality. Indeed, Frady tells us, the Mongomery bus boycott of 1955, which catapaulted Dr. King into national prominence, did not end the segregation of the city's bus system -- a court decision did.
Towards the end of his career, black leaders such as Malcolm X and Stokely Charmichael pressured Dr. King to abandon his philosophy of nonviolence. He did not do so. But Frady shows us how Dr. King and Malcolm X near the end of their lives each learned something from the other.
King's most difficult moral struggle was with himself. Frady gives us a convincing picture of how Dr. King, whose appeal rested upon an ability to convey moral and religous principle, struggled (unsuccessfully) with sexuality.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book begins with a sentence fragment arguing that the age of white racism and Southern apartheid seems like ancient history. Read morePublished on June 14 2002 by Michael Dawson
This is one of the best of the often excellent Penguin Lives series. Martin Luther King is presented as a real man with insecurities, self-doubts, college plagarizing and... Read morePublished on May 11 2002 by John Knight
Marshall Frady's book is an invaluable addition to the historical, sociological, and psychological understanding of this country's race relations. Read morePublished on April 19 2002 by Tony Sanchez
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