An encapsulation of the civil rights reformer’s life through the lens of the 31 hours before his assassination in 1968.
Investigative journalist Rosenbloom, formerly of the Boston Globe, Frontline, and Inc., reinforces the story of the end of Martin Luther King Jr.’s remarkable life with an integrated summary of the career that brought him finally to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in spring 1968. The garbage collectors of Memphis, virtually all black, were on strike. Earlier in the city, rioting marred a march led by King, who was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the time. Though the SCLC was in the midst of planning a Poor People’s March in Washington, D.C., King, depressed and weary, felt compelled to return to Tennessee to lead another demonstration. The author details a pending injunction against King’s participation and the negotiations with unreliable and demanding gang members recruited as likely marshals and a stubborn mayor. Rosenbloom also concisely describes the quotidian bonding of King and his diverse associates, and he doesn’t ignore King’s relationship with his wife, Coretta, as well as his extramarital adventures. The personality and moods—often dark, sometimes frolicsome—of the supremely gifted orator and preacher are a salient feature of the author’s report. Also integral to the text are the late-afternoon activities of King's feckless murderer, James Earl Ray. The portrayal of Ray in his perch watching the civil rights leader at the Lorraine Motel is succinctly cinematic. The previous night was stormy as King spoke to a disappointingly small crowd, but his words were memorable. He mused on the possibility of a curtailed life, but, he said, he had “been to the mountain.” He was only 39 when he died.
A skillful depiction of the people and the scenes surrounding the killing of the champion of the civil rights movement.