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Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  868 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, this is the most comprehensive book ever written about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Based on more than seven hundred interviews with all of King's surviving associates, as well as with those who opposed him, and enhanced by the author's access to King's personal papers and tens ...more
Paperback, 626 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published December 1st 1986)
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Tabasco
"Early morning, April 4th,
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky,
Free at last! They took your life,
They could not take your pride" (Bono, U2).

I learned so many things from this book. For example, that MLK was assassinated at 6 pm, so Bono got that wrong in his lyrics. Then of course "pride" rhymes a bit with "life", so it worked in the song, but other than that, i believe it would be a poor choice to summarize the spirit of Martin Luther King with the word "pride".

"Bearing the cross" is a long book.
...more
Mikey B.
A comprehensive biography of Martin Luther King Jr. He is obviously the most significant figure in the latter half of American history in the 20th century. Martin Luther King is the moral conscience of America bringing attention to its racism and its obsession with materialism. King always stressed and believed in non-violence. He was ignored by the Eisenhower administration and persecuted by the Kennedy’s.

It was Robert Kennedy who authorized the wire-taping of King’s residence and hotel rooms.
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Cliff
It's a bit difficult to know quite what to say about this book. It won the Pulitzer prize, undoubtedly because it was a very well chronicled and researched exploration of one of the most influential men of the 20th century in America, Martin Luther King, and probably the first real look at the man in such a format.

On one hand, this book lives up to what it promises. It is incredibly well documented and detailed, they had their research lined up perfectly. And it is about a great man during diff
...more
Sam Motes
An unflinching look at the life of man who embraced his destiny and lead his people through very turbulent times during their fight for dignity and respect. Garrow's work is very detailed and almost feels like a minute by minute account of the events of Martin Luther King Jr and the SCLC. The book did a great job of pointing out not only his strengths and courage but also his flaws as a man susceptible to the failings of the flesh. The epilogue points out that when we idolize our heros we make t ...more
Reid Mccormick
This is the most comprehensive, articulate book I have ever found about Martin Luther King, Jr., the SCLC, and the Civil Rights Movement. Garrow does an amazing job detailing every aspect of the struggles of the Civil Right Movement. Every meeting, every conversation, every thought during these troubled times can be found in this book. You read about joys, trials, triumphs, and tragedies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and beyond.

It is astonishing how much I did not know about Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Thomas D.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most fascinating human beings to have ever walked the face of the Earth. For 12 years of his life, he stood in the spotlight of public attention as a leader of The Civil Rights Movement. King, at first, was a reluctant leader, but at some point, he saw that the Movement was bigger than himself, that the whole Movement was destined to change society. King saw his role in the Movement as not unlike his Call to preach. King felt that God demanded his participa ...more
Judy
At 800 pages, this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography is a little intimidating (although 167 of those pages are extensive notes and the index), but it is very well-written and readable. I did find the level of detail a little much at times as I got lost in the minutiae of every meeting, march, and lecture King was involved in.

There is some information about King's childhood and college years, but the book really begins in 1955 with Rosa Parks's refusal to give up her seat and the resulting bus bo
...more
Ryan
Made me realize how shallow my knowledge of the civil rights movement and MLK's role was ... and most likely still is. Though it skims quickly over his youth and the indiscretions of his adult years, it's hard to imagine a more complete biography. In reading bios of Washington, MLK, and other icons I've realized that what I'm looking for are the dimensions that turn them from symbols into men, flawed and human in their greatness.
Jfarley
This book could become tedious, if it wasn't so good. The level of detail is astounding, and gives an almost minute by minute account of King's ascent from citizen to icon.



The good, the bad, and the ugly are all here, which is what is compelling about the story: These people weren't superheroes, they were ordinary folks. That did great things.



I can't recommend this enough.
Jason
A really detailed comprehensive history of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr.--along with some biography of King interspersed. It is an immersive history that appears to include just about every meeting and phone call on these issues from the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) in 1955 to King's death in 1968. In some ways that serves a bigger purpose, removing the Civil Rights struggle from the temptation of Whig History to see it as a continuous march ...more
Mike
This is the best biography I've ever read.

Garrow brilliantly removes his own voice from his story of MLK's professional and personal life. The abundance of straight facts and lengthy quotations from civil rights leaders made me feel like I was there on MLK's shoulder the whole way. I cannot fathom the depth of research that must have gone into this book.

Martin Luther King is a lion of a subject. Contemporary America has idealized him into a sort of secular saint, the kind of person you can't eve
...more
Danny Aguilar
In the Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, David J. Garrow gives an incredibly thorough account of the latter years of Dr. King’s life, and the development of the Black Freedom Movement from the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, to The Poor People’s Campaign and King’s death in 1968. Over 150 pages of notes and a bibliography, including several hundred interviews, exposition of several of King’s writings, a ...more
Ann Olson
This was a long book. And then I wrote a long review and it disappeared.

To summarize- Great book. Chapters Selma and the Chicago Housing Movement were my favorite. His speech on 513 about being so tired and marches being so beautiful was especially powerful to me. "Black is as beautiful as any color." Reading about the FBI and wiretappings and all that was so intriguing and got me so frustrated at points- is this what our tax dollars should really be paying for? he wasn't a "communist threat".
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Brian Ross
I've been meaning to read this book for awhile, but was finally inspired to do so by seeing the film "Selma." This book is a comprehensive history of the civil rights struggle, particularly through the lens of MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I would recommend it as a reference to anyone researching MLK, the civil rights movement, and the groups and organizations that comprised it. It is exhaustively researched and well written.

However, be aware that the author, who comes fr
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Karen Masso
This is a super-detailed book on the facinating life of a man who shaped a nation.

I was surprised and encouraged by messiness of the story. The nation's injustices abounded. The civil rights movement was chock full of organizations who couldn't agree on things like strategy or use of money. There were ambitious people, turf issues and times when pride got in the way. MLK, Jr himself was a gifted, yet flawed man.

That is where the hope lies, in the humanity of the players. The movement leaders wh
...more
Allen
I listened to the audio book of this while reading "Parting the Waters" concurrently, so I have to make sure I don't confuse them. This book is a single volume history/biography of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and by compressing the events into one book it necessarily sacrifices some detail. It does a good job of covering King's life, I think, but it gives only a cursory treatment to the rest of the SCLC, and even less to the other simultaneous organizations.

If you want a o
...more
Michael
Incredibly detailed and fascinating. But has a very cold play-by-play analytical writing style. But an illuminating look at an amazing story, surprising in a lot of ways, how Martin Luther King Jr. stumbled into his role, rather than created it, the intense toll it took on him, his later depression. Weird how it ends exactly on Kings death and provides very few details about the aftermath and very few conclusions.

Why did I write this? Who knows.
Becca
Garrow has put very thorough research into this work. He began his research not long after King's death and the work was completed just 18 years after. Because of this he is able to conduct interviews with those closest to King. This 800 page work is a rather exhaustive history of King's life from 1955-1968 with major emphasis on his involvement in the SCLC. Because the format is chronological it is easy to get bogged down in the every day details of life and miss out on the big picture of King' ...more
Chris
The depth and breadth at which the author covers is astounding considering that by far my view, as I expect is the case with so many others, is so simplified and narrow it's sad.

Truly eye-opening to see the humanity of Martin as well as a list of other views that no one seems to want to care about anymore. Unfortunately I want the book to be a little less comprehensive, but I would have been disappointed if this were the case...
Mscout
A thorough biography of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, there is nothing really new here. Garrow begins with the Montgomery Bus Boycottw hich fist pushes MLK into the national spotlight and follows him until his death. It is almost too dense with facts and in need of more narrative. It chronicles every trip, speech and project Dr. King undertook which leaves very little room for anything else making it a rather dry read.
Andres
It's truly amazing how much you don't know about someone so famous, so part of your generation historically. MLK jr's life had so many complicated and amazing passages in it that to remember him solely for one speech or the effort he put into the civil rights movement is a shame. This book thoughtfully went through the trials and jubilations that made up his whole life. Some of it good, some of it surprising.
Laszlo de Simon
A wealth of detail provides a daily (seemingly by the hour) account of MLK from Montgomery's bus boycott to Memphis. Thankful for all the learning, yet the focus is so tight on MLK you are left with almost no lasting portrait of the many people around him (Coretta, Albernathy, to name a few), let alone any larger analysis from Garrow to explore further.

Above all: it is so very hard to lead change.
Vera
very detailed and thorough account of the civil rights movement, MLK's involvement and of other major players never mentioned in history class. despite how detailed it is, still an immensely enjoyable and readable book. i learned more from this book about the civil rights struggle than any history class i ever took. a must read if you want an "on the ground" history of major events and of MLK.
Tara
It almost never takes me a month to read a book; however, this was one exception. It is an extremely detailed account of MLK's life, with a focus on his dealings with the SCLC. Sometimes the detailed references to exchanges among civil rights groups became tedious, but, on the whole, the book was thought-provoking and informative.
B. Adriana
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kerry
great look at the nuts and bolts of the civil rights movement. Garrow covers everything MLK from managerial philosophy, to fundraising methods, to personality disuptes, and of course spiritual underpinnings and organizing tactics. Very practical applications for activists today.
Cwelshhans
The book had an incredible amount of research that went into it, but the end result felt like an amalgamation of facts with little cohesion. The narrative that does occur feels like telling, not showing (despite all of the facts), so it left me cold.
Biographyguy
A biography that still holds up to the test of time. Anyone truly interested in finding out about one of the most iconic men in American history should read this book. Don't just celebrate the man, learn about him and what he stood for.
Tom Gee
Written by a lawyer. An interesting history, but rather more didactic than I was looking for. About 1/3 of this impressively thick book is endnotes, which would make a great investigative resource.
Pam
Interesting but the author tried to put too much information into one book and left out the human interest peice. After a while it was drugery to read so I didn't finish it.
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