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Every Day Is The Right Day To Be Hopeful—2011 Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List

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Blogger’s Note–April 4, 2011 marks 43 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King.  To mark the day with hope instead of just the memory of the killing, here is my 2011 Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. Every day is the right day to be hopeful. This is the fourth edition of the list. I update it each January with new titles. A comprehensive study of Rev. King’s life will convey just how radical he was. It is essential that we as liberals study the past to understand the lessons of history, and, also, the spiritual and intellectual underpinnings of our beliefs.  Don’t believe the lies that Martin Luther King was some type of soothing figure of reconciliation who wanted no more than for people to just get along.  Dr. King demanded social and economic justice for all.  Rev. King’s message is very much needed today as the poor and middle class alike are under attack from a revived far-right. We must take action ourselves to keep Rev. King’s vision alive. Nobody will do the work of freedom for us. Each individual must make the decision to work with others for a more fair and just society.

While it is always instructive to watch a rebroadcast or listen to a recording of the I Have A Dream speech, there is a next level for someone who wants to better understand Martin Luther King and his message.

Reverend King asked serious questions about America as a war criminal nation in Vietnam. He asked if America merited divine judgement as a wicked nation of racism and social inequality.  These questions are as relevant as ever as America is engaged in endless war and as income inequality grows.

It is within your power to bring about a better world. You have the ability to understand complex things. Learn about what a true prophet of justice Martin Luther King was in our society. After you learn more about Dr. King, take action yourself  toaddress the great pressing social problems of American life, and to address conditions in our world as a whole.

Here is an admittedly incomplete, but I hope useful, Martin Luther King viewing, visiting, listening, and reading list.

An excellent book is Martin & Malcolm & America—A Dream Or A Nightmare by James H. Cone. This book follows the words and the careers of both these men. The premiseof the book, which holds up in the telling, is that Dr. King and Malcolm X were not as far apart as often portrayed. Malcolm was a man with a broader vision than one of simple racial solidarity, and King was in many respects a fierce and almost apocalyptic critic of America.

( Below–Martin & Malcolm)

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I’m glad to say I bought my copy of Cone’s book at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.  This site is operated by theNational Park Service. You can tour Martin Luther King’s boyhood home at this location. You’ll also want to tour the Auburn Avenue Historic District around the King home.

(Below—Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. This was King’s home church.)

In Washington, when you visit the Lincoln Memorial (photo below), you can find a small marker indicating the exact spot where Rev. King made the “Dream” speech. It is a good place to stand.

The best one volume work on King’s life is David Garrow’s Bearing The Cross—Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Bearing The Cross was the 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner for biography.  You can’t help but feel the deep-sea like pressure on Dr. King in the final years of his life. I wondered if towards the end of his life King felt  death would be the only true escape from the exhaustion, the misunderstandings and the conflicts.

An interesting DVD is King–Man Of Peace In A Time Of War. Much of the hour long presentation is a rehash of King biography. What makes this special is a roughly 15 minute interview Dr. King did with afternoon television host Mike Douglas.  Mr. Douglas asked tough questions about Dr. King’s stance against the Vietnam War and about the effect of that opposition on the Civil Rights movement. Dr. King is calm, cool and collected. You could see how King was a leader who could speak anywhere and to anyone.

A solid explanation of Reverend King’s theology and a good analysis on the failure of Southern segregationists to mount an even more aggressive opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, can be found in A Stone Of Hope—Prophetic Religion And The Death Of Jim Crow by David L. Chappell.

A Testament Of Hope—The Essential Writings And Speeches Of Martin Luther King, Jr is needed for a complete King library. In honesty though, I’ve always found this book to be sprawling and without  clear focus. It consists of King sermons, some interviews and excerpts from his books. You need to have it on your shelf, but there are more concise ways to get at the “essential” King. Continue reading

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments