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The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  7,719 ratings  ·  257 reviews
Using Stanford University's voluminous collection of archival material, including previously unpublished writings, interviews, recordings, and correspondence, King scholar Clayborne Carson has constructed a remarkable first-person account of Dr. King's extraordinary life. Beginning with his boyhood, the book portrays King's education as a minister, his ascendancy as a lead...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing (first published August 1986)
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“To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person.”- Dr. King.

Lincoln emancipated the slaves but more than 100 years later, the descendants of the slaves were still living under segregation and fear. They weren’t free in the true sense of the word. There were separate facilities for Blacks and Whites; separate drinking fountains, restaurants, schools, churches etc, there was also widespread poverty. There were men and women...more
I had to keep reminding myself that it's not the civil rights movement I am rating and reviewing, because the spectrum of legitimate excuses, let alone justifications, which could explain the withholding of a star or two is rather limited. It comes as a kick to the gut every time a young, unarmed Clifford Glover or a Travyon Martin or a Michael Brown is shot for no valid reason and the realization sinks in that the process of integration which was initiated by Lincoln some 150+ years ago and fur...more
Jan 23, 2014 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brian by: Rowena
Shelves: ruard_referred

I am not certain, fifty years later, that White America can really appreciate what Martin Luther King, Jr. did for this country. Beyond the necessary needed to be done for the African-American population, it is difficult - impossible, really - to imagine how much our nation would have further suffered had MLK not been the one to lead the charge for change. As a middle-class white man in 2014 would I have been able to relate to a militant, angry, disenfranchised black man/woman willing to kill or...more
Best.Book.Ever. The chapter ' Letters from Birmingham Jail' is the most compelling thing I've ever read. Dr King was the real deal. I realize this is not a 'comprehensive' autobiography, meaning it was not intentionally written as one, the King family but Dr. Clayborne Carson in charge of the King Papers and he did a great job. On finishing this book, I e mailed Dr. Carson at Stanford University - it was a Saturday - and I had a response in 5 minutes. A very humble response to my overly gushing...more
Adam Wiggins
This is not quite a true autobiography, but rather a collection of King's writings and speeches throughout his life, edited and assembled by a third party. I found this disappointing because it lacked the benefit of hindsight perspective that a biographer could have brought, but also doesn't necessarily have the personal tone and thesis of an autobiography.

I listened to this in audio form, which included many recordings of King's sermons and speeches. This gives a firsthand glimpse at his fantas...more
Disclosure: I own the physical book of this, but I consumed it via its Grammy-winning audiobook instead. Why?
1. It's narrated by LeVar Burton, the former host of Reading Rainbow--there's a reason kids listened to him and wished they knew how to read, and it's because he makes whatever he's saying jump to life.
2. It's peppered with clips (or full recordings) of numerous speeches by Dr. King himself. Some you've doubtless heard before, like his "I have a dream" speech or even his "I've been to th...more
Jeremy Perron
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. is an incredible work; however one needs to remember that it is not a real autobiography. Like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, it was written after he died. It was assembled by the editor, Clayborne Carson, who went over King's papers both public and personnel and edited his work into a biographical format. The book received the endorsement of Coretta Scott King in 1998. The book is a brilliant piece of literature. Carson is careful to let the reader...more
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. gives an overview of the major movements in King's life, from his childhood, up until his death. Although the book is written in King's own words, the book is actually a compilation of his various writings: essays, sermons, speeches, letters, etc. Because of his untimely death, King was not able to write his own autobiography. King's wife enlisted the historian of Stanford University (Clayborne Carson) to go through King's extensive writings to put so...more
Carson takes some liberties adopting an "autobiography" construct. By using the first person singular, the author makes the subject of his book seem, for example, more defensive when Dr. King decided not to remain in jail awaiting trial instead of remaining true to the nonviolent direct action tenet of demonstrating civil disobedience by remaining incarcerated. The story does benefit from this personal perspective as King explores his religion, his career choices, his opposition to Viet Nam and...more
In school we listened to and read some of Martin Luther King's speeches and in recent years I had read a sermon or two of his, but that was the breadth of my experience with his work. Having now read the autobiography, I think it should be required reading in high schools.

As many reviewers have mentioned, it is a little strange to call it an autobiography. However, there is so much first hand accounts that I don't really have a problem with it. I don't think that the editor, Clayborne Carson ste...more
The first several chapters were very interesting and showed potential for the remainder of the book. However, I did notice quite a bit of redundancy throughout the book, which was slightly annoying and led to a feeling of disinterest. For a life filled with so many challenges, discoveries, setbacks, and'd think the book would be much more exciting/interesting. I just did not think the "real" MLK came out, but more of a stereotypical "good" and somewhat shallow MLK instead. I was d...more
Michael Paone
My experience with this book is hard to put into words. I'm convinced he was simply beyond the majority of people of his time, and fought hard against limited worldviews of religion, politics, and human existence, from the standpoint of spirit. From the book you get a great sense of how he is able to (and struggles to) communicate his vision to all levels of people -- from ethnocentric segregationists, to complacent / fatalistic faith leaders, to black nationalist defectors, and everyone in betw...more
Not knowing much about Martin Luther King Jnr this gave me a good grounding in his philosophy of non violence and the political and social conditions he was seeking to change during his lifetime. It's very well put together and I could believe that he was actually narrating it. The author has done a brilliant job of pulling his writings together and coming up with a rounded biography of one of the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement.
I have to say prior to reading this I watched the Malcolm X film and I found myself leaning towards his beliefs. However being a little more mature now and reading this I found myself siding more with King.
One of most interesting things for me about this book isn’t just about the black struggle (which I’m sure most know about) but was also about King’s other goals both for blacks and whites.
The chapter ‘Black Power’ for my is absolutely brilliant. From the name ‘Black Power’ you’d probably assu...more
Paul Barone
On 5 March 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. along with Kentucky civil rights leaders, led a 10,000-person march up Capitol Avenue in Frankfort, Kentucky towards the Kentucky capitol. The marchers were urging for the passage of a public accommodations bill that had been introduced in January to the Kentucky House of Representatives. The bill, much like the one that was proposed by President Kennedy a year earlier, would end segregation in Kentucky in the area of public accommodations such as retail st...more
*continues to beat dead horse* I know this has been mentioned a few times so I apologize for my redundancy but I take major issue with this being called an autobiography. I'm aware the author got Ms. Coretta Scott King's approval but still. I'm not saying he didn't do his research but if pouring over documents and speaking to a family member about the deceased is the new standard for penning an autobiography then ok...I'm gonna write one too...I'll start looking over private letters and corresp...more
Don King
An amazing, eye opening story of the life of a great man. His vision for the what could be, his eloquence in explaining what should be and his persistence in bringing it about are incredible. The final chapter, with his last speech where he foreshadows his own death the following day is chilling. It's amazing to me that, at least in Canada, I never heard one thing about MLK in school. How can it be that the leader of one of the most important movements of our time could be ignored by our school...more
Dave Flores
I thought that this was an excellent book to read and I'd recommend it to anybody who's interested in learning a bit more about MLK. It mainly covers his beliefs and achievements throughout the civil rights movement. He was a great man with great determination and it's too bad he was assassinated in his fight for peace and equality.

The only complaint I have is that in some parts of the book it sort of left me hanging. It didn't tell me enough of what I wanted to know, I was sort of left with qu...more
Adrielle Pottle
I have read this Bio three times now and it just keeps getting better. It is inspiring to read that one man's passion can bring about such change. Not only that, he was human! He was not flawless. I connected with the writing and the personality of Martin Luther King because he was not perfect but he stood by his convictions. He has and always will be someone I will aspire to be like.

I have learned so many things about the movement King was involved in from reading this that my mind boggles. The...more
Lexie White
I needed an autobiography I chosse this one and got inspired to right an autobiography.About me.
Nii Lamptey
Martin makes Christianity attractive.
He's somebody to model a life after.
"The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr." by Clayborne Carson is a rewriting of King's letters, speeches and notes which gives us insight to his life as a civil rights leader but very little about his personal and family life. King used his faith, belief and sense of justice to become one of the most charismatic leaders in history.

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." (letter from Birmingham Jail,...more
Bill Glover
I wish MLK had had more time to write. Or just more time in general. His arguments and thoughts display a deep understanding that is almost entirely unassailable. He was really an incredible thinker. His writings are limited only by the accessibility intentionally built into them. As persuasion pieces designed for the widest possible audience they don't dive back into the source materials he mentions in passing, but he always quietly indicates where the roots of his thought came from, and it's u...more
Joseph Vincent
MLK got a Nobel peace prize in Oslo and a bullet in the face in Memphis for all he did with exemplary courage, eloquence, and love.

If you're an American, you need to read this to better understand the significance of civil rights, our history, our future, and what America ought to be.

If you are a human, you need to read this to better understand the problems we face together, the strife and conflict around the world, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the way that we make this planet a...more
Ashok Thirunavukarasu
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr., Clayborne Carson is an exceptional read – it isn’t just a book about an individual, but of an entire movement, and its people behind it, about each man & woman and their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I would really recommend this book to my friends + family.

That being said,Linah (a friend who asked me to name three things I took from the book), here are the top 3 things I took away from the book:

This book is incredibly moving. It's not a true autobiography, but rather a compilation of MLK's writings and speeches. It begins with an introduction by the compiler/editor Clayborne Carson, followed by LeVar Burton reading the book. His readings are interspersed with actual recordings of MLK's speeches and segments of African-American spirituals. I can see why the audiobook won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album! LeVar Burton does an excellent job. About a year ago, I listened to Clayborne Ca...more
Now I’ve been to the mountaintop, and shared a glimpse of the grand dream about humankind dwelling peacefully in racial harmony, watching out and caring for the poor and disadvantaged alike. The editor does a competent and credible job piecing together what Dr. King might have said in an autobiography by referencing voluminous original source material. The result reads like a historical personal account of the 1950s and 60s with an obvious focus on civil rights efforts in the American Deep South...more
Omar Halabieh
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one-tenth of the people ill-nourished, sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color lines—obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime. We cannot be truly Christian peo...more
This was an amazing book, very well put-together. Even though it was compiled post-humously, the editor did an excellent job of staying true to Dr. King and I think he would have approved this book. My only complaint about this book was that it simply ended. I shouldn't have been surprised (afterall it's an autobiography by a man who was assasinated), however, I guess I was expecting a bit of an afterword or editorial about his death and the effects it had on the movement. I'm sure I'll be able...more
Thomas DeWolf
I've had this set of audio cassettes for several years. For the same reasons I read Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch I recently listened to these 6 cassettes on a long drive from our home in Oregon to my sister-in-law's wedding in San Diego and back.

LeVar Burton does a wonderful job of narration. Listening to the history of the Civil Rights movement through the experiences, writings, and speeches of Dr. King is well worth the time. The best aspect of listening to this book as opposed to read...more
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Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president. His ef...more
More about Martin Luther King Jr....
Why We Can't Wait Letter from the Birmingham Jail A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches Strength to Love I Have a Dream / Letter from Birmingham Jail

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“A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.” 1444 likes
“There is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity.” 81 likes
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