The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In school we listened to and read some of Martin Luther King's speeches and in recent years I had read a sermon or two of his, but that was the breadth of my experience with his work. Having now read the autobiography, I think it should be required reading in high schools.
As many reviewers have mentioned, it is a little strange to call it an autobiography. However, there is so much first hand accounts that I don't really have a problem with it. I don't think that the editor, Clayborne Carson steered the book in a way unbefitting to King.
The book gives you a thorough account of King's actions and involvement in the civil rights movement, as well as insight into his personal struggles. Two things really struck me about King's character throughout the book: his willingness to sacrifice and his strong faith in God. He (and his wife) were willing to sacrifice not only their time, efforts and resources but also their security in order to fight for civil rights. It doesn't seem that many Americans these days are willing to sacrifice much of anything for anything. The second aspect that struck me, his faith in God, is well-known. However, it was remarkable to read how he was constantly questioning himself, checking his motives and his intentions and realigning himself with God's will. His faith and his actions resulting from that faith are stunningly humbling.
Another thing that I think is worth mentioning is the social power of the church. This account demonstrates how the church at one time really was a social engine in the community. Nearly all of King's civil rights movements were organized through and in the church or affiliates of the church. It's unclear to me if this would still be the case today. I think that generally, America's churches need to reconsider their missions, both in advocacy and community service.
The book ends with King's last speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop" and his last sermon "The Drum Major Instinct." You can't help but get chills reading these, as it seems that King has come to the realization that his days are numbered and has made peace with this and with God.
There are too many outstanding quotes to mention...just go read it!
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