Review by Choice Review
Sunnemark (cultural studies, Univ. Trollhattan-Uddevalla, Sweden) analyzes King's civil rights legacy through the lens of discourse studies. He argues that King created a specific civil rights discourse using a "ladder of signification" comprising three levels: religious, idealistic, and materialist. At the religious level (top rung), King drew on concepts of God, Jesus, the church, and "the beloved community" to establish the moral authority of the movement and of King as spokesperson for it. At the idealistic level (second rung), King spoke from this moral authority to situate civil rights issues effectively within a variety of ideologies, using allusion, varying conceptions of race, and international contexts to place civil rights issues in an inclusive discourse. Having created this inclusivity, King was able to bring blacks and whites together at the materialistic level (third rung) to construct a shared moral struggle against segregation. Sunnemark suggests that this "ladder of signification" became a less viable civil rights discourse after 1965, when the realities of continuing economic inequalities required King to speak out against the white power structure rather than depict a mutual quest for a moral, just world. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Collections supporting discourse studies and cultural studies, especially the Civil Rights Movement, at graduate and research levels. C. R. Haller York College, CUNY
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