Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., The

Martin Luther King Jr., Clayborne Carson
Using Stanford University's voluminous collection of archival material, including previously unpublished writings, interviews, recordings, and correspondence, King scholar Clayborne Carson has constructed a remarkable first-person account of Dr.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.


Reviewed: 2017-01-02
Author should have written a biography instead. That this wasn't an actual autobiography made me a bit hesitant in reading, but it seemed like it was worth reading what was supposed to be King's words culled from his speeches, writings, etc. Admittedly I only know the basics of King's life and it seemed like this might be a good place to start as a foundation read.
I found most of the book awful in terms of writing and just not very readable. There is something very stilted, something not quite right with the style of writing and I couldn't help but feel the editor (Clayborne Carson) is either not a very good writer or perhaps was very aware of the fact that he was culling this from other writings, speeches, etc. but not the man himself. King's own writing was of course great to read in the context of his career and times (Carson admits that it's not very personal) and I personally found the timelines posted at the beginning of each chapter quite helpful. But this isn't a work like Malcolm X's autobiography where Haley knew and interviewed Malcolm X.
However, as a reference and/or as a guide I thought the book was helpful. As I wrote I am sadly quite uninformed about King's life and work and found it quite fascinating. It's helpful that the book is divided into major events/periods such as his early personal life, his time at various schools, churches, the events of Atlanta, Selma, Birmingham, etc. As a primer I found that very helpful instead of just a headlong book that just tells the story with little regard to how much the reader does/does not know.
That said, I wish the editor had approached it a bit differently or had written an actual biography of King instead. I'll keep an eye out for another book on King but would recommend you borrow this from the library and/or buy it cheap if you want it as a reference instead.
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