Review by Choice Review
In this ``personal portrait'' of Martin Luther King Jr., Garrow demonstrates the extraordinary research in primary sources that has characterized his previous scholarly work on the Civil Rights Movement. Garrow uses oral histories, government documents, manuscript and archival sources, as well as secondary works, to create a thorough and detailed chronology of the life of one of America's most important citizens. The book explores King's public and private life from his childhood to his death. Garrow also illumines significant aspects of social conflict in the US, as well as King's philosophy and tactics in confronting that conflict. Along with Stephen B. Oates's Let the Trumpet Sound (CH, Jan '83) and David L. Lewis's King: A Critical Biography (CH, Jul '70), Garrow's work emphasizes the particular actions and politics that defined King's public life. This biography reminds readers what King meant in his unyielding opposition to war and his unwavering commitment to economic and social justice. Scholars will find Garrow's extensive bibliography and index particularly useful, but all audiences will profit from exposure to this book.-G. Lipsitz, University of Minnesota
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Garrow's two previous books about King (Protest at Selma, The FBI and Martin Luther King) were mere exercises compared to this exhaustively researched biography. Unfortunately, the 200 pages of end notes that anchor this titanic study betray its core problem: although academician (political science/CCNY) Garrow skillfully weaves together the facts of King's combative life, his insistence on scholarly exactitude doesn't let him exercise the artist's license necessary to vivify his fascinating, complex subject. The author opens with Rosa Park's refusal to give up her bus seat to a white rider in December, 1955, an act of defiance which sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, the entire modern Civil Rights movement, and King's stormy career. At once, according to Garrow, the two dominant themes of King's life manifested: the perennial confrontation with governmental authority (so frequent were King's incarcerations that at times his enemies resorted to bailing him out to void his bids for martyrdom), and his lifelong sense of being caught on a whirlwind he couldn't control. Garrow also makes much of a little-publicized event coincidental with the boycott: a mystical encounter with Christ in King's kitchen, an experience from which King drew strength throughout his life. The rest is history, although never before so carefully laid out in every detail: the perennial jockeying between black leaders; King's love/hate relationship with the Kennedys; his absolute insistence on nonviolence; and, on the domestic level, King's chauvinistic treatment of his wife and his Rabelaisian sexual escapades (which Garrow treats with the utmost tact). An encyclopedic piece of research, but so flat in its exposition that only the scholarly inclined will have the fortitude to embrace it. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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