The life of Dr. King, presented in his own words. As director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project, Carson (In...

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"THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR."

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 has enjoyed unprecedented access to King's published and unpublished writings.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 fights 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 Despite the inclusion of previously unpublished work, nothing startlingly new is revealed.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.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 1998

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Warner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998