An incisive assessment of the techniques, writings, and leadership of Martin Luther King, by Colaiaco, author of James Fitzjames Stephen and the Crisis of Victorian Thought (1983). Colaiaco traces King's influence (this is by no means a biography) from his emergence as a national figure during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956. Heavily influenced by Gandhi's nonviolence, King adapted the Indian's techniques to the realities of American politics, utilizing the protections offered by the US Constitution to force the nation to come to grips with what Gunnar Myrdal called the American dilemma--the conflict between the nation's democratic ideal and its practice of denying freedom and equality to blacks. The author details King's masterful use of the national media in drawing attention to nonviolent protest that exposed the brutality lurking beneath the surface of racism. Colaiaco also chronicles King's less successful drift toward more radical criticism of American society and his anti-Vietnam Warwork, finding the civilrights leader's attention to northern problems, such as racism in Chicago, to be far less effective than his earlier campaigns--due both to the more lackadaisical attitudes of black ghetto-dweilers and to challenges to King's authority from black militants like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. Perhaps Colaiaco's greatest contribution is in his in-depth analysis of King's ""Letter from Birmingham Jail,"" a manifesto of the black civil-rights movement that the author calls one of the greatest historical documents of the era. Colaiaco effectively demonstrates how King's genius lay in showing the American people that civil disobedience does not result in anarchy. Though brief, this book does justice to a great mind.