There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Synopsis

The sources of Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s phenomenal and prophetic impact on life in America and beyond have never been adequately understood.

In this path-breaking volume, Lewis Baldwin traces King's vision and activism not to his formal philosophical and theological development but directly to his roots in Southern black culture, where King spent most of his 39 years.

King's appropriation of the Bible, Gandhi, American participatory democracy, Boston personalism, and the theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and the Social Gospel makes sense, Baldwin argues, only against his visceral and abiding identification with black culture and the black Christian tradition. Working directly with the trove of King's sermons, speeches, and unpublished papers, Baldwin has reconstructed the pain and joy, the defeat and triumph King experienced in his formative family relationships, in the black church, in his childhood and education, in his marriage and children, in segregated black Atlanta, and in his leadership of America's civil rights movement.

Baldwin's through research and engaging writing finally give us what King had but Scholars have missed: the sense of place that grounded his vision of the "beloved community."

Excerpt

This book was made possible by the assistance and encouragement of many persons. in addition to my own research in archives and libraries, I have benefitted from the insights of other scholars who have written important works on Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Kenneth L. Smith first sparked my interest in scholarship on King while I was a student at the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hal1/Crozer Theological Seminaries from 1971 to 1975. Dr. Smith, who taught the only course I ever took on King's life and thought and who served as my master's thesis advisor, suggested early in 1983 that I write a book assessing the impact of the black experience and the black church on King. Having taught King at Crozer Theological Seminary in the late 1940s, and having coauthored one of the few major works on King's intellectual sources with Ira G. Zepp, Jr., Dr. Smith has been in a position to offer advice and insight that few others can give.

I would like to acknowledge my debt to Professors James H. Cone, David J. Garrow, and Charles R. Wilson. Dr. Cone, the eminent black theologian who teaches at Union Theological Seminary, and I have had many friendly and stimulating conversations concerning our research on King since 1982. I have learned much from him about King, and we have freely shared the fruits of . . .

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