I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU by Michael Eric Dyson


The True Martin Luther King, Jr.
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A bracing attack on sanitized and tendentious misperceptions of Dr. Martin Luther King. Dyson (Race Rules, 1996, etc.), who contends that Dr. King is arguably “the greatest American who ever lived,” seeks to “rescue King from his admirers and deliver him from his foes.” Both black and white progressives and forces on the right, he contends, have tried to hijack the figure of King for their own purposes. Ralph Reed has used King as an example of racial reconciliation and of religion fused with politics in order to woo minorities to the religious right. Although whites have embraced King’s “I have a dream— speech for its safely universal appeal, King was anything but the “poster boy for Safe Negro Leadership.— In fact, Dyson points out, King embraced democratic socialism rather than capitalism, favored income redistribution, called the US a racist country, and believed American society needed fundamental transformation. Dyson details King’s views on war—particularly his attitude to the Vietnam War, which he opposed not only because of his beliefs in non-violence, but also because it was racist as black soldiers were sent to fight in “extraordinary proportion to the rest of the population.” Elsewhere Dyson describes King’s move from fighting racism to opposing class oppression. Dismissing the claims by militant blacks that King was an “Uncle Tom,— Dyson maintains that he was a black nationalist who supported some degree of separation, even in the schools, in order to help blacks advance. Dyson rounds off his portrait by dealing with the charges of plagiarism against King, his relations with women, his family’s highhanded control of his legacy, and parallels between Hip Hop lyrics and King’s message. Despite often prolix prose, Dyson succeeds in recasting King’s message from a comfortingly unexamined myth to an enduring challenge by a great American provocateur. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86776-1
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000

Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >


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