The heavens might crack : the death and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. /

"A vivid portrait of how Americans grappled with King's death and legacy in the days, weeks, and months after his assassination On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. At the time of his murder, King was a polar...

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Main Author: Sokol, Jason, (Author)
Format: Book
Published:New York, NY : Basic Books, [2018]
Edition:First edition.
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Review by Choice Review

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, resonated throughout the world, leaving a complex legacy for race relations in the US today. Historian Sokol (Univ. of New Hampshire) connects King's death, and the campus and urban uprisings that followed, to the complexities of race relations in the 1960s. In his opinion, the assassination signified "a tipping point in the nation's racial history"--a backward step after the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts. Sokol reminds readers that before his martyrdom, King was not the universally beloved leader of the future. Rather, the preacher-activist and opponent of the Vietnam War was a controversial figure. Following King's death, white supremacists, long opposed to his dedication to racial peace and justice, braced themselves for race war. Militant blacks, many of whom decried King's racial philosophy, scoffed at his nonviolent and interracial agenda. Meanwhile, white liberals and many ordinary blacks revered him. Sokol traces the complex process of how, by the late 20th century, King's legacy had been "sculpted and scrubbed" by those who shaped his legacy from outlaw to saint to suit their needs. Ultimately, King's tragic death detoured the country's path to multiracialism--still a boundless journey toward democracy, freedom, peace, and racial healing. Summing Up: Recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries. --John David Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

For the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights historian Sokol focuses on the murder's aftershocks. He begins with stories of the African-Americans who venerated King, but who largely felt that his murder proved that "nonviolence is a dead philosophy," as Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality explained in 1968. Sokol then turns his attention to white people, now champions of King but who once largely disapproved of his actions, and reminds readers of the virulence of that hatred, and the battles over even the smallest tributes to King's memory. Sokol is an assured writer, deploying revealing, striking anecdotes, such as that of James Baldwin, who was quoted in a New York Post article saying he could never again wear the black suit he wore to King's funeral. After reading the article, one of Baldwin's high school friends called Baldwin up, asking about the now-extraneous suit. Baldwin gave it to him. "'For that bloody suit was their suit.... They had created Martin, he had not created them, and the blood in which the fabric of that suit was stiffening was theirs.'" This book offers valuable yet painful insight into the paradox of King's stature throughout history. Agent: Brettne Bloom, Kneerim & Williams. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A history of the passionate responses generated by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.Five decades after his death, King stands as one of the most admired individuals of the 20th century. But when he was killed on April 4, 1968, he was a divisive figure: lauded and beloved by some; feared and reviled by many. J. Edgar Hoover called him a "degenerate," and Strom Thurmond damned him as a disruptive agitator. Drawing on archival sources, oral histories, interviews, and local, national, and even college newspapers, Sokol (History/Univ. of New Hampshire; All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn, 2014, etc.) offers a richly detailed analysis of the impact of King's death on blacks and whites of all stripes. In the immediate aftermath, King's killing "intensified a debate among African Americans about the virtues of nonviolence versus armed resistance." Some joined the Black Panthers, who had gained followers even while King was alive. By the end of 1968, the group had established chapters in nearly 20 cities. Their appeal, writes the author, "was obvious: they were bold and fiery, intelligent and confrontational." The rage that fueled the Panthers also stoked racial hatred among whites, which intensified as cities erupted in looting and riots. That violence led to support for gun control laws among white Americans who wanted to keep guns out of the hands of black rioters. On college campuses, King's death inspired activism that had been focused on opposition to the Vietnam War. Suddenly, students saw the urgency of responding to issues of racial injustice. Sokol closely examines the trajectory of events at Duke University, where a weeklong silent vigil transformed both an apathetic student body and a conservative administration. International acclaim followed King's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and surged after his death, especially in developing nations. By the 1980s in the U.S., King's message had become "scrubbed" until it threatened no one.A revealing examination of how a "courageous dissident" became a martyred saint. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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