Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” as Want to Read:
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  14,121 ratings  ·  602 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Using Stanford University's voluminous collection of archival material, including previously unpublished writings, interviews, recordings, and correspondence, King scholar Clayborne Carson has constructed a remarkable first-person account of Dr.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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 401 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing (first published August 1986)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Xavier If you thought you could read books on Goodreads, you are mistaken. You can look up books, add them to your shelves and write updates and reviews but…moreIf you thought you could read books on Goodreads, you are mistaken. You can look up books, add them to your shelves and write updates and reviews but you can't read them.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,121 ratings  ·  602 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rowena
“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
Samadrita
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 ...more
Brian
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Francisco
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book at this particular time because I needed to hear the words of someone who believed with his life that hatred and anger were not the answer. The concept of non-violence and the discipline that it requires of the individual seems outdated. As out of touch with our current culture as repression of our instinctual drives is out of touch with current psychology. The thing now is the expression of anger. Anger is the new virtue. But here is the life of a man who at times felt ...more
Diane Wallace
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read! great insight into his life and story (paperback!)
Michael O'Brien
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed reading Dr. King's autobiography, and getting to learn of his point of view on many of the great events during the Civil Rights Era, many of which he spearheaded. I was not sure what to expect --- perhaps something rhetorical or ideological, but Dr. King's narrative is factual and, at times, self-deprecating, emphasizing many of the sacrifices made by others in the effort to defeat segregation. Despite bridling under the humiliation of daily life in the Jim Crow South, Dr. ...more
H
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Minzi
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nii Lamptey
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Martin makes Christianity attractive.
He's somebody to model a life after.
Jeremy Perron
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dee Dee G
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I follow Bernice King on Twitter and she always says that a lot of people who quote her father now would have hated him back then. I believe she’s right. There’s still a lot of hate today, but it was different many many years ago. Doctor King’s letter from the Birmingham jail is also in this book. I learned so much from this book, but I want to learn a lot more especially since my grandparents and parents grew up in the Jim Crow era. This book will open your eyes to so much.
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
...more
Amy
A fascinating book and great audio with snip-its from Martin Luther King Jr.'s actual speeches. I liked what it had to say about organizing, definitely some good tips (especially about picking a target and not just protesting generally.)
Like most people, I assume, I am most familiar with MLK's work in the south and was fascinated to learn about his efforts in Chicago. His methods and goals seem to have shifted at that point and I would like to learn more. From my extreme ignorance, it seems to
...more
Sandy
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Abbie
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 (MILLION) STARS. Wow. It's so hard for me to review books that actually literally floored me because I'm at a total loss for words and just awestruck. That's what this book did to me.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has been my hero and role model since before I can remember. He inspires me every day to love fearlessly, passionately, relentlessly. And this autobiography just gave me a whole new and expansive look at his life and faith in a profoundly beautiful way.

Basically all I have to say is…
This
...more
Noah
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

I started the audiobook of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. a day after MLK Jr. Day, figuring, what better time than now to absorb such a heavy subject? And heavy it was. Though misleading in its title, this book is a collection of King's various writings, and the audiobook in particular includes numerous recordings of King's speeches, sermons, etc. I
...more
Zebulynn Hanson
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it makes me want to cry when I think of how too good for this world he really was.
Carla
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jenny
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Stu Schreiber
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never listened to an audiobook until now but I was urged to listen to this book by a friend. It brought back so many memories of an extraordinary man who's message needs to be repeated continually to a country that has misplaced its conscience. I was blessed to hear Dr. King live. Although I was a young child I have never forgotten that experience and only wish he wasn't taken from us. Thank you Clayborne Carson for refreshing his message. Read this and live Dr. King's message.
Omar Halabieh
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Doreen Petersen
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Magnificent book about MLK. A tremendous life cut far too short by an assassin's bullet. A definite must read.
Andrea
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Man’s inhumanity to man is not perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good."

King was on to something, he understood that in order to make a change one cannot simply sit on your couch and sip tea and hope the problems of the world would disappear. He understood that as the popular saying goes, for evil to succeed, it takes good men to do nothing.

I will try not to praise the man who was humble and would not
...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
...more
Qwantu Amaru
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Make America Great Again

One one level I an deeply ashamed that I am just reading this comprehensive, compelling, and courageous book taken from the writings and speeches of the man himself and on another level I am happy I am reading this in 2016 as the issues of racism, poverty, and war (King's self-described 3 evils) are still very much alive. This is the example of a leader as Servant - a powerful man who dedicated his power not to the creation of personal wealth but to improving the
...more
Tom
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Well Read Beard
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
I enjoyed the book - It's really a collection of all of the speeches and personal writings. So, if you want the "Letter from a Birmingham" jail, "I Have a Dream" speech and all the others in one place, This is the book. The book goes through all the boycotts, sit-ins, protests, marches - and all the history surrounding those different protests. And the way it is written, from his writings, speeches - It almost comes off as a first person narrative, seeing these things through Martin's eyes. I do ...more
April Cote
A fantastic audio book. Martin Luther King was a brilliant, courageous man. A life that never should have been taken from this earth before his time.

Highly recommend and should be a must read for everyone.
Matthew McAndrew
It's a cliche saying, but this book was life-changing. I was so inspired by King Jr.s life story and his words that I became very interested in philosophy, ethics, debate, politics and humanity as a whole. I also still love the nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King Jr.s movement. Wish we had class like his around today. He was a great man and an amazing speaker.
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:

...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Need to add a new edition 3 15 Nov 01, 2018 01:46AM  
MLK's Top 5 Book Recommendations 1 7 Feb 21, 2018 02:28PM  
MLK Quotes 2 15 Apr 22, 2016 02:30PM  
Martin Luther king 4 32 Oct 22, 2014 12:09AM  
I Have A Dream 2 41 Aug 19, 2012 01:58PM  
Free Books, .99, ...: Giveaway: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ends Jan 17th 1 36 Jan 16, 2012 08:44AM  
Book Giveaways: Giveaway: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ends Jan 17th 1 11 Jan 16, 2012 08:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Gandhi: An autobiography
  • Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama
  • Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements
  • The Discovery of India
  • Long Walk To Freedom (Volume 1: 1918-1962)
  • Long Walk to Freedom
  • Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
  • Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World
  • The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
  • Lincoln
  • Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India
  • A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story
  • W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
  • Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • My American Journey
  • My Life
  • Revolutionary Suicide
See similar books…
23 followers
Clayborne Carson is professor of history at Stanford University, and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. Since 1985 he has directed the Martin Luther King Papers Project, a long-term project to edit and publish the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.” 1658 likes
“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” 149 likes
More quotes…