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Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle over Civil Rights

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  439 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Kennedy and King traces the emergence of two of the twentieth century's greatest leaders, their powerful impact on each other and on the shape of the civil rights battle between 1960 and 1963. These two men from starkly different worlds profoundly influenced each other's personal development. Kennedy's hesitation on civil rights spurred King to greater acts of courage, and ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Hachette Books
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Average rating 4.49  · 
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Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressure and that is the basis of all human morality.

Over the last few days I've heard people repeatedly say "This country is better than this"

But Is it?

The events of this book took place over fifty years ago and yet they also took place over the weekend.

Maybe America isnt better than this. Maybe this is America.

America is judged on its actions. Around the world we are seen as a beacon of democra
This was the first book I read in 2018. This subject is not new or foreign to me in the least bit. It was released last year but all the same I knew I had to read it the first time I laid eyes on it. Suffice to say I was not in the least bit disappointed.

John Kennedy is my hero. There - I've said it, I've put it out there. There is nothing that anyone can say that would make me hate him or stop idolizing him...ever. (OK, the fact that he cheated on Jackie upsets me to no end but I've managed to
Porter Broyles
I do not understand why JFK is held in such high regards when it comes to the Civil Rights battle. I know this is not going to be a popular stand, but Bobby Kennedy and LBJ fought harder for Civil Rights than JFK ever did!

Kennedy was not a man of action or lead by his convictions. In 1954, he was the only senator not to vote on the censure of his family friend Joseph McCarthy. While every other Democrat voted to censure McCarthy, Kennedy did not (he didn't vote due to back pain). Shortly thereaf
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Finished: 01 November 2017
Genre: non-ficiton, history
Score: A
Review: I read and listened to this book. The audio brought the story to life with the whisperered voices of Jackie Kennedy and Coretta King, JFK’s Boston Kennedy accent, MLK’s booming preaching voice and Governor John Patterson of Alabama as the snarling white segregationist. This book shone light on the shadows in my own memories of the 1960's. Steven Levingston’s Kennedy and King is masterpiece of historical narrative. Every page sp
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you've read the Taylor Branch histories and other Civil Rights histories, there's not much new here, but this is still a great read about the evolution of these two men. Well, it's more about the evolution of Kennedy than King, but the latter was instrumental in it I suppose. I also don't like histories of Civil Rights written as though the 64 and 65 Acts were a fait complit. Not by a longshot. Still, read this one. And may more come out. Maybe a Johnson and Abernathy or a Johnson and King. M ...more
Hill Krishnan
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a masterpiece indeed! ...more
Jerry Murch
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read....especially in this political climate. Very good. Gave me a whole new perspective on Kennedy, and even more respect for Dr. King.
Noah Goats
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
JFK was a pragmatic politician who was sympathetic, in an aloof sort of way, to the cause of civil rights, but who had other concerns that seemed more important to him. He always placed the economy, the cold war, and political considerations far above civil rights on his list of priorities. MLK was an idealistic visionary who led people who were fed up with 100 years of continued subjugation following the emancipation proclamation.

In this book Steven Levingston does a great job of bringing this
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kennedys, favorites
"I don't care if the United States gets the first man on the moon, if while this is happening on a crash basis, we dawdle along here on our corner of the earth, nursing our prejudices, flouting our magnificent Constitution, ignoring the central moral problem of our times, and appearing hypocrites to all the world."

**Not exactly apart of the review but if you're interested there is a song that perfectly exemplifies the quote above. Gil Scott-Heron sang a poem "Whitey on the Moon" in 1970 in respo
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book delving into the growth and interaction of Dr. King and President Kennedy. Both had their flaws, but both made decisions that changed America. I am still amazed by the hatred and rationalization that stood in their way and has caused so much pain and tragedy over our history.

Well worth your read, one can't always say it, but I learned some things with this book that I have not found in others on the same subject and era.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This turned about to be an interesting book, due in part to the fact that it was not so much abut MLK and JFK, but about the three year period of JFK's presidency, as it relates to civil rights. The book has more about RFK than JFK, which is due to the need for responses to events such as the Freedom Rides. I learned a good deal about those rides, and some of the lesser-known folks in the fight for civil rights. ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Informative, readable and convicting. Finished the book with even more respect for Dr. King and all of the other civil rights activists like Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, John Lewis, Fred Shuttlesworth, Jackie Robinson, and so many more.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book on understanding the differences between these two pivotal leaders in history.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing ride through the 50s and 60s through the eyes of its two most polarizing leaders. As the book (and time) progresses, Kennedy and King’s lives and ultimately legacies become more and more intertwined. Highly recommend, and a must read for any King/JFK enthusiast!
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. I knew many of the bits and pieces of history related to these two prominent American figures but this book really brought it all together for me. I learned so much and feel the Civil Rights struggle so much more deeply as a result. This all happened not so long ago and I am clearer now on why our country still has so much work to do.
Stan  Prager
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review of: Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights,
by Steven Levingston
by Stan Prager (12-31-18)

The fifty-five years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated has seen his standing rise considerably among both historians and the general public, even putting him into the top ten on some lists, which is remarkable for a man who served such as brief tenure—only 1,036 days—as President, yet is less surprising perhaps when juxtaposed with his successors, whom he ce
Susan O
Excellent! Levingston's writing is engaging and nicely paced. He gives enough background to provide context and basic biographical details of Kennedy and King, but not so much to become boring if you are already familiar with these men and events. Having read Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63 by Taylor Branch and Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, JR., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David Garrow, the events were not new to me. W ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about the civil rights era.

Although I was a kid then and thought I remembered a lot, reading this book I realized I really didn't take in that much at the time.
For example, I didn't know that King had used child protestors in Birmingham.
Or the extent and ferocity of the violence. And how the protestors, while non-violent, basically put themselves in positions where there would be violence against them in order to get attention from the white establishment, especially the Kennedys,
Wally Wood
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked up Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights by Steven Levingston because I'm revising my novel which is set in the period right after the time this history covers. My book begins with JFK's assassination; Levingston's book ends just before it with the August 1963 March on Washington and King's: "I have a dream that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the color of their characte ...more
Miguel Arvelo
A thought provoking, captivating, and entertaining look at two of U.S. History's icons.

This is the kind of book our children should be reading in school. Steven Levingston manages to make history entertaining and appealing without losing the serious tone of the topic at hand. The book is written in such a way that the reader is truly transported to the events that transpired in Washington DC , Alabama, and other southern states in the late 50s and early 60s. A true masterpiece of historical stor
Mannie Liscum
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Kennedy and King” by Steven Levingston is a deep, rich and well-old story of the late 50’s/early 60’s Civil Rights movement and the intersection of two leaders of the time: Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy. Though King’s foray into the Civil Rights movement started largely by accident in Montgomery, AL during the bus boycott while he was a lead pastor at Dexter Ave Baptist Church; once captured by the movement he never lost his passion or focus. Kennedy, on the other hand, only slowly ...more
Joseph J.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 20th century political, Kennedy, civil rights buffs
Here is the magnificent story of two men with little (privileged sons?) or nothing in common, whose times demand their leadership and common purpose in the goal of securing basic American rights for African American citizens. This is a story of growth. Young JFK campaigns where no former Boston politician went- into black businesses. Yet his basic experience with blacks seems to be with his valet-a surprisingly friendly and equal relationship as it were. Martin Luther King Jr. is the son of a le ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book presents a detailed examination of JFK’s education on the desperate need for action to advance civil rights, and the need for the federal government with Kennedy at its helm to drive that action. MLK was the most visible leader of the civil rights movement, but he certainly did not work alone; there were many other leaders and groups, and many individuals who put their lives on the line (many permanently injured or killed in the process) to expose the appalling inequalities in the Sout ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rarely have I come across a book is masterfully part-history, part-storytelling, and part-biography. The civil rights movement of the 1960s has many key figures, but at the center are definitely JFK and MLK. Levingston puts it best when he said the two needed each other: King needed Kennedy to take on an active role as an advocate on civil rights, and Kennedy needed King to subdue the protests that are leading to more violence. In the epilogue, Levingston also connected the relevance of the civi ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's very well-written, and fills in some gaps in my knowledge of the civil rights struggle during the early 1960's. I was a supporter of JFK when he was running in the Democratic primary in Wisconsin, as a member of the Marquette Young Democrats. The author follows his progression as a person mainly interested in international relations but a strong supporter of human rights in his heart, to one who learns of the abominations committed against his fellow human beings in a more ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Solid four-star, but can't go higher than that.

Levingston gave me some new food for thought on Jack and Bobby on civil rights, but I'm ultimately not fully buying it. Perhaps Jack had some degree more of real interest than I've thought before, and perhaps some of his real interest was beyond a law and order angle even before summer 1963. But, I don't think it was as much as Levingston states. He also doesn't address whether or not Jack's increased interest in civil rights in 1963 was due to det
Robert S
Kennedy and King offers the reader a new take on both men, a rare dual biography that sets the stage with the main issue that brings both men to the center being civil rights.

However, this new take largely treads over a lot of older ground. Kennedy and King is certainly a well-researched, well-written, and well put-together read about the two men coupled with their roles in shaping the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s.

Most of the details included here have been discussed elsewhere in fa
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent study on the interpersonal relationship between JFK and MLK. The author presented a thorough investigation that was well documented and written. Although the relationship and interactions of these two public icons was fragmented in nature, the author presented their story in a consistent and well connected timeline of events and interactions. In equal fashion, the author was able to narrate a very complex relationship (interpersonal) between two very complicated men (intrape ...more
Lorcan Neill
One can only wonder what the world would be like today had we not lost John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King well before their time. The impact that those three men had on the civil rights movement is immeasurable. All three had incredibly different personalities, styles, and agendas - but all three are responsible for uplifting the moral compass of America. They are true American heroes.

“Kennedy and King” is one of the best books I have ever read. Tremendously written, Living
Shelly Saczynski
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! Read this book! This book has touched me as no other book covering this material has. Extraordinary. I didn't think this at first, the start seems pretty low key and not inspirational. The accounting of the transformation in Kennedy is fascinating. I have read other books about civil rights in the 60's including Taylor Branch's excellent work, but this book moved me and stays with me in ways that others haven't. It may be particularly meaningful to me in light of events in this country ...more
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Steven Levingston is the non-fiction book editor of the Washington Post and author of "Kennedy and King", "Little Demon in the City of Light", and "The Kennedy Baby." He has lived and worked in Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and Washington and reported and edited for the Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune. ...more

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