The life of Martin Luther King, Jr. blends seamlessly with the fight
against racial discrimination, which he experienced from a very early
age. Although his parents had taught him the notable values of civility
and dignity, the reigning system in the south of the United States,
where he lived, repressed the African-American population at all costs,
and he soon rebelled against it.
The restrictions imposed were one of the authorities’ obsessions. King states that no black child in Atlanta could go to a local park. Likewise, he could not attend white-only schools, nor walk into a restaurant to eat a burger or drink coffee. Entertainment facilities for people of color, such as movie theaters, were also rare.
King’s education allowed him to develop his intellectual path with some of the best mentors of his time, studying philosophical currents, identifying with the theories of the world’s greatest leaders – preparing himself for a unique ordeal in the history of mankind.
He spent the Christmas break of 1949 reading Karl Marx, attempting to understand why Communism was attracting so many people, but it was Gandhi that fascinated King upon hearing the testimony of Dr. Mordecai Johnson, who had just returned from a trip to India and spoke about that notable figure, whose bold approach to love and non-violence became the example for the social reforms King sought to implement.
According to King, it was Gandhi who first raised Jesus’ ethics beyond the mere interaction among individuals, employing it as a powerful and efficient large-scale social force. King believed that for Gandhi, love was a potent tool of social and collective transformation.
Mahatma Gandhi inspired the African-Americans of Montgomery, AL, to start a social movement of great dignity. While Jesus inspired them to use love as a creative weapon in acts of protest, the African-American community created the most powerful weapon in their fight for freedom by combining Gandhi’s methodology of non-violence to the Christian doctrine of love.
Montgomery’s Civil Rights Movement is born in response to Rosa Parks’ refusal to leave her bus seat for a white passenger. She was arrested, and King delivers the most decisive speech of his life in her defense. There began the overreaching process that, after many years and many deaths later, culminated in the end of racial segregation.
The bus boycott in Montgomery (where there was an anti-boycott law at the time!) lasted thirteen weeks, throughout which the city’s black inhabitants walked everywhere, oftentimes being intimidated, persecuted and arrested for not using public transportation. Planning and improvising an ingenious system of alternative transportation, those who adhered to the boycott endured the revolt until they had won: at the end of 1956, the US Supreme Court declared the bus segregation laws as unconstitutional.
King soon became known as a young and brave African-American with his leadership actions within the movement. Montgomery contributed with a new tool for the African-American revolution, a social instrument of non-violent resistance. The movement unveiled to the world a person who the whites would have to listen to and respect, even if grudgingly. Someone who the blacks admired, who had left the “paralyzing passivity and numbing complacency,” emerged with a new sense of dignity and destiny. The young and brave African-American from Montgomery acquired a new determination to attain freedom and human dignity, despite the grievous cost.
Following the Montgomery movement is the Sit-in movement of the 1960’s, a galvanizing rally of black students that spread throughout southern schools and townships of the US, consisting of occupying cafeterias and other public places, and which gave America a brilliant example of disciplined, non-violent action worthy of opposing the segregation system of that time.
Throughout more than 400 pages, the book describes meticulously the most remarkable events in the process of the African-American fight for civil rights under Rev. King’s selfless leadership, based on true, original texts and content. There’s the narration of the Birmingham and Chicago campaigns, of the Washington and Selma marches, of his involvement with Malcolm X and the Black Power movement, of his talks with American heads of state – Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon; several episodes of his numerous times in prison; accounts of his family life, which was crucial for his motivation. Even the full length of his ultimate speech in Memphis, the day before his murder, is included in this work.
“Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”
BY PAULO SERGIO GOMES
A REMARKABLE WORK
As Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Archive Director, Clayborne Carson is an expert
in terms of the gigantic amount of documents that comprise his collection. Naturally,
Carson was invited by King’s heirs to compile the reverend’s invaluable
legacy of letters, messages and journals into a book, including recordings and
pictures from his sermons and public speeches.
Thousands of documents and records have been read, heard and viewed,
and later stringed in a chronologic, historical and factually coherent narrative in
the first person, thus adding to this “autobiography” a very unique identification
of a very unique world figure.
More than an MLK autobiography, this work is a long and well-established
unraveling of the historical events in the racial liberation achieved by black
A UNIQUE CONTENT
This work becomes even more precious by transcribing the most important written messages of Martin Luther King, Jr. – some of them complete – from a speech contest he won at age 14 to his very last speech. To those readers interested in knowing more about this remarkable figure, here’s what they will be able to find:
• First sermon as minister of Dexter Av. Baptist Church, in Atlanta
• The most decisive, albeit improvised, speech of his life at the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement
• Speech on Mahatma Gandhi
• Prison journals and telegrams sent to President Kennedy during the Albany movement, in the summer of 1962
• Birmingham’s Prison Letter directed to eight clergymen from various religious groups – clergymen who had criticized the rallies and the “extremism” of King’s actions
• “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington
• Mourning address to the murder of four black girls during Sunday School, at the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, and to the murder of President Kennedy
• 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, at the Oslo University Conference
• Several remarks connected to the events in Selma, Alabama and the Chicago Campaign.
• Appeals against the Vietnam War
• Poor People’s Campaign and the March on Memphis
• Last speech at the temple of Bishop Charles J. Mason in Memphis, a day prior to King’s death.