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Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marshall Frady




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The Penguin Lives series has found a niche in presenting biographies that are brief and well-written. A recent title in this series, Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marshall Frady, gives readers the story of Martin Luther King in a nutshell. Unlike the 1500 pages from Taylor Branch’s two definitive King biographical works (Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire), readers may not understand context, nor enjoy the depth of stories and events. But this new brief biography distills King’s life into critical events, and lays open for readers’ reflection the fundamental conflict of King’s life, what Frady calls “the transcendently spiritual and the convulsing carnal.” Within two hundred pages, Frady guides readers through the significant events that formed the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s an excerpt that presents a condensed version of the relationship between King and the Kennedys just after the 1960 presidential election:

“But the Kennedy brothers themselves, despite their intervention to get him released from Reidsville, were never really to comprehend, throughout most of their administration, that full meaning of King. It became instead the immemorial conflict between prophet and princes, a relationship for the most part of mutual estrangement. The president and his brother were, to begin with, possessed of a relentless caution of political calibration, particularly now given the electoral tenuousness of their governing authority, and they were hardly unwitting that King constituted the most sinister sort of hobgoblin to the standing political estate in the South. Too, however wondrous his apostleship in the Montgomery movement, King yet seemed too specialized and parochial a figure, just a young Southern black preacher still tossing about for some sequel to that sensation of four years ago, to carry any serious national political heft. Accordingly, right after the election, King was invited neither for a personal session with the incoming president, as were other, more regulation black leaders like Roy Wilkins, not even finally to Kennedy’s inauguration itself. Nor was he asked to the large convocation not long afterward of civil rights eminences in the office of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.”

If you’re looking for a brief overview of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., with some key insights, you’re likely to enjoy reading Marshall Frady’s new biography, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Steve Hopkins, May 8, 2002


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the June 2002 issue of Executive Times


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