Reviews for Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 November 1998
/*Starred Review*/ Carson, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, brings together selections from King's writings, speeches, and recordings to create this fascinating "autobiography" of the famed civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The writings trace King's struggles with religion, philosophy, and the racial politics of the U.S. They reveal his youthful attraction to Henry David Thoreau's stance on the moral obligation to resist evil as much as to cooperate with good, and Mahatma Gandhi's teachings on nonviolent resistance to oppression. This work offers King's view on a number of thorny issues; on Rosa Parks and the bus boycott in Birmingham that launched the civil rights movement, for example, King characterizes her actions as spontaneous rather than planned, which has been suggested. He contrasts the racial milieu and tactics needed to address racism in the North versus the South and sees the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the culmination of the nonviolent resistance movement, as "first written in the streets" with the success of the protest marches. This stunning, passionate collection of writings also reveals King's impressions of other famous leaders of the time, including presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and activists Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. ((Reviewed November 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

----------------------
BookPage Reviews 1999 February
Clayborne Carson, a Stanford University professor, has done the impossible with his reconstruction of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., compiled from the vast collection of King's writings, speeches, and interviews. With the blessing of the slain civil rights leader's family, Carson assembles a fascinating portrait of King as spokesman, husband, and father in this excellent introduction to one of the most significant figures of the 20th century. Copyright 1999 BookPage Reviews

----------------------
Kirkus Reviews 1998 October #2
The life of Dr. King, presented in his own words. As director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project, Carson (In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, 1980, etc.) has enjoyed unprecedented access to King s published and unpublished writings. Out of these he has fashioned what he terms an approximation of an autobiography that King might have written.'' Despite obvious pitfalls one cannot know how King might have presented himself, had he lived this work is compelling. Focusing mainly on intellectual and political development (King wrote little of his private self), this quasi-autobiography reminds a reader of how complex King was in his thinking and how singular in his purpose (the pursuit of justice). The familiar events of King's rise within the civil rights movement are presented, but so are subtleties of the intellectual evolution of nonviolent resistance. Far from simply mimicking Gandhi, King developed a nuanced philosophy based on the possibility of goodness reached through faith and reason. Carson portrays King as an opponent not only of racial inequality but of economic inequality, too. As the civil rights movement took a more militant turn, King spoke presciently of ``Black Power'' as a positive cultural phenomenon but also as a self-defeating, even suicidal ``revolutionary'' doctrine. King also comments, with a generosity of spirit, on public figures he encountered. He quite liked John and Robert Kennedy for their ability to learn and change. He was even charmed by Nixon and the seeming sincerity of his wish to create a better America, while noting that ``if Richard Nixon is not sincere, he is the most dangerous man in America.'' Despite the inclusion of previously unpublished work, nothing startlingly new is revealed. What emerges, unsurprisingly, is a life lived with courage and conviction. (Book-of the-Month Club selection; author tour) Copyright 1998 Kirkus Reviews

----------------------
Library Journal Reviews 1998 July #1
Carson, who in 1985 was asked by the King family to direct the editing and publication of King's papers, constructs a first-person narrative. Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews

----------------------
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 November #3
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 Publishers Weekly Reviews

----------------------