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Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr.
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Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  877 ratings  ·  72 reviews
On April 4th, 1968 a shot rang out in the Memphis sky bringing to a close the life of the last great American hero, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jnr.

Although known to most for the delivery of his "I Have a Dream" address, which followed the peaceful march on Washington DC of 250,000 people, and as the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (at age thirty-five), King
Paperback, 592 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Harper Perennial (first published 1982)
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Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found myself unacceptably ignorant of the Civil Rights Movement. I took this biography to inform me of the movement through its most known figure. As I read the book I realized that my ignorance of the subject was on a much higher level than I had imagined.

The book begins by telling the story of King's father and thus explains in detail the social and family milieu that Luther King Jr. was born and raised. It is striking to note how King's natural talents made him engage in movement almost nat
Matthew Hunter
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
Riveting! Because I knew MLK would be assassinated at the end, I found myself dreading the outcome from the very beginning. Oates does a great job of blatant foreshadowing, amping up the reader's angst. The description of MLK's corpse is numbing, a bit clinical, and powerfully depressing. We lost a true (but admittedly human) hero when MLK was taken from us in 1968. Oates conveys this loss through his serious, grave account of MLK's march toward death.

Admittedly, I'm focusing almost exclusively
Carol Storm
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a good biography but Oates writes in a very slow, dull pedantic style that doesn't bring King to life. More excerpts from his speeches would have enlivened the story.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not surprised this got so many good reviews as it’s a damned fine book. Obviously the subject matter is something you want to read in the first place which gives it a head start but I’m sure we’ve all read some duff biogs.

Oates manages to tell the story of MLK with a dispassion that is important for such a historical figure. Oates didn’t evangelise him, rather he the recounted events and let the reader draw their own conclusions. As well as recanting MLK’s life Oates also managed to give som
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is my second very big biography of Dr. King (the first was the Pulitzer Prize winning Bearing the Cross). I also tried to read Taylor Branch's magisterial Parting the Waters but it was just too damn long...which doesn't mean I won't return to it at some point.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is, without a doubt, my favorite figure from American history, and the only person I can truly call my hero. I admire him tremendously, and each time I read about his death, or see the final speech he gave on Ap
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book cover to cover for a history class in college. It was very well-researched. I really appreciated that it covered all aspects of King's character and life. I highly recommend this book, especially for people like me who were not even alive during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. If you yearn to know what life was like back then, and why someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. was so important, this book is for you.
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an easy to read, well written biography. It was assigned, but I couldn't put it down. I loved that it was realistic. Too often MLK has been put on a pedestal. This book showed him as both a man and the legend.
Joel Huffstutler
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kept me interested. I’d like to read more by this author.

Came across David Garrow’s bio while reading this one. Would be interested to see whether he updates his own with new information from FBI surveillance data.

The hatred and oppression towards African Americans in particular portrayed in this book is shocking. Such a sad commentary on the wickedness of the human heart.

I don’t know how MLK could continue to call himself a minister of the Gospel and be
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
If not the best biography, then one of the best single volume books about MLK. A great American leader period.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With the recent 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. King I felt a need to read his life story. Although I read about his activities while they occurred, I realized that I did not have a sense of the overall arc of his life's activities in the causes of equal rights, peace and the end of poverty. This book provided the narrative I needed to read.
Earl Solper
Oct 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Earl by: Morgan
Let the Trumpet Sound (which Oates began writing in 1977) was derided as an "authorized" biography by some critics when it was first published. By today's standards, however, it seems more like a hatchet job than a hagiography.

Oates uses racial epithets profusely in his quoted material. How many quotations are necessary to establish that the anti-Civil Rights people are virulently racist? A dozen? Two dozen? It's closer to one hundred in this book, which is pretty solidly in the gratuitous zone.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book stands on it's own as a moving and inspiring 5 star read. You Tube added to my enjoyment of this biography as I could jump online and watch the speeches, the marches, the beatings, the fire hoses, and Bobby Kennedy's speech the night of King's death. I didn't know about King's march against poverty in Chicago exposing the fact that extreme racisim didn't just exist in the south. I was impressed with the courage of King to speak out against the Vietnam War even though it put
him at odds w
William Keyser
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mesmerizing look into a complex life of a True Christen

This should be required reading for all Americans. The power of love and non violent confrontation shows how one man can change the world. Martin Luther King was truly a gift of God and a voice crying in the wilderness. He wasn't perfect but neither was David, Peter, Paul and many other prophets of Old and New Testaments. He was honest and had a vision that is included all into forging a better nation. Stephen Oakes truly captures the pain
kimmy anne
May 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like recent-biograhies
I had to read this for school (actually only chapters 5 and 8). It was good.. well written. The subject is what makes it incredible-- Martin Luther King. His message is very inspiring. also very sad.
I like how the author weaves King's speeches, quotes, and ideas in with biographical information.
May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most powerful and emotional books I have ever read. If you want to gain some perspective on the Civil Rights Movement - this book is for you. I'm not a history buff but this was just so fascinatin and moving.
Bryan Cottle
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book from my undergraduate experience!
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Let the Trumpet Sound" is a pretty good place to start regarding Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Though it often reads like a Wikipedia article and sometimes fails to capture the intensity of a given situation, this overview of MLK's life is very easy to read, well-paced (once King gets to Montgomery), and doesn't bog itself down in minutiae. It's Martin Luther King's life in broad strokes, and within that framework it does pretty well. It seems those that rated the book low w ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I am a part of a book discussion group that our church has, and this book was a recent selection for discussion. That introductory note is partly to explain why I only recently read this biography, first published in 1982.

My knowledge of Dr. King was only cursory, having been aware of him in the 1960s. I confess to having had only a surface level of knowledge about his life. Of course, the news of his tragic death was one of those sentinel events in the 1960s, and one of which I was well aware.

Greg Schloesser
I was but a child when the civil rights movement of the 1960s occurred. As such, I knew (or at the time cared) little of the events and its recognized leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Plus, the movement became somewhat overshadowed by the events in Vietnam. As a child, war was somehow more fascinating than civil rights. A shame.

Over the years I learned more about Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement he led. But not enough. The recent protests, marches and Black Lives Matter movement spurred an
Elliot Ratzman
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A balanced biography of King which integrates a number of original interviews, sources, key texts and speeches. Though Oates didn’t get the cooperation, at first, of King’s widow Coretta, he was able to get 11th hour access to the King archival material in Atlanta shortly before it was opened to researchers. The presence of Harry Watchel, a Jewish confident and financier, and Harold de Wolf—King’s PhD adviser who remained a presence throughout his life—were new sources for me. This may have been ...more
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt: A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader.

WOW! This is first word that comes to mind when describing this book. It is a comprehensive work about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The author did a great job with not only providing information about this well-known man's life, but he did so in a way that I felt like I was right there, watching him preach at his father's church, organizing his marches, giving his famous "I Have A Dream" Speech at the
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's fine. A decent overview of the life of a great man. As a work of history, it's lacking. Oates is not a great writer. He spends long stretches merely summarizing--or block-quoting--King's speeches, and at times it is not clear from the text whether a particular line is of Oates' own invention or is part of the speech. In the introduction, Oates toots his own horn quite a bit about the fact that he was one of the first people to write about King's infidelities and the FBI's illegal and immora ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up at the library soon after April 4, 2018, driven by the realization I knew nearly nothing about Martin Luther King, Jr. After a couple of hundred pages, I bought my own copy so I could move through it slowly to absorb the challenges, triumphs, and tragedies of his life. If your knowledge about him is limited as mine was, I recommend you do the same.

Oates did a terrific job of telling a balanced story. King does not come off as a saint - he had his flaws as we all do - but he
Rachel Grepke
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The only things I knew about M.L.K.Jr., was what I was taught in school. And after resding this book, that information was not enough. The civil rigbts movement was not all about Martin Luther King Jr., but he became the face and idealisticness of the time. This book takes you across state lines, onto buses, through city marches, overseas, and in his personal life. I found this book to be quite honest and liked how the author explained certain moments. Not only did I learn a lot more about Marti ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Warning: the Kindle addition is a bit difficult to read/pace yourself. Chapters are marked by sections, not chapters. It appears each chapter is an hour long.

This book highlights a difficult chapter in our history, which is not that long ago. King's peaceful protests, jail stints and numerous court cases proved to be more successful then violent protests. It's depressing to read, but I was amazed the courage of King and all the people who followed him. By standing up they changed the world.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A concise biography of an amazing man

This book carries a concise remembrance of Dr. King. It is a great book to give an overview of the life of MLK. The author doesn’t hold back on all aspects of Dr. King’s life. It’s a clear picture of a great prophet of our time. Cut down too soon.
Angel Gonzalez
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is as good as Fischer's biography of Gandhi. Martin Luther King was an authentic man of God who lived a life of service to his fellow human beings. His accomplishments were manifold. He is, probably, the greatest American ever. MLK is now for me, a role model in my American experience.
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author did a good job of presenting the facts about King's life in a way that I felt was fair and professional, leaving all interpretations up to the reader. I consider this a very important book.
Anthony Ambruso
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book!

This book is a very thorough accounting of a very productive life. I have read several books about M. L. K., and this is the best. Very well-written and was a page-turner. God bless him. He's in my to five people's list.
Mark Johnson
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading. Raw and detailed, warts and all, engaging and informative. Highly recommended for one view into one of the most important lives of the last 100 years in America.
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A former professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is an expert in 19th-century United States history.

Oates has written 16 books during his career, including biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, and John Brown, and an account of Nat Turner's slave rebellion. His Portrait of America, a compilation of essays about United States history, is

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