Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Synopsis

"A thoughtful and measured analysis that will raise the bar for future works on the man and his work." Pride Magazine

Kirk's book offers an up-to-date assessment of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, incorporating insights from the most recent scholarship. In doing so, he delivers a fresh perspective on the relationship between "the man and the movement," arguing that it is the interaction between national and local movement concerns that is essential to understanding King's leadership and black activism in the 1950s and 1960s. Kirk examines King's strengths and his limitations, and weighs the role that King played in the movement alongside the contributions of other civil rights organisations and leaders, and local civil rights activists.

Excerpt

Early histories of the civil rights movement that appeared prior to the 1980s were purely biographies of Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Collectively, these works helped to create the familiar ‘Montgomery to Memphis’ narrative framework for understanding the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. This narrative begins with King’s rise to leadership during the 1955–6 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, and ends with his 1968 assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Since the 1980s, a number of studies examining the civil rights movement at local and state levels have questioned the usefulness and accuracy of the King-centric Montgomery to Memphis narrative as the sole way of understanding the movement. These studies have made it clear that civil rights struggles already existed in many of the communities where King and the organization of which he was president, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), ran civil rights campaigns in the 1960s. Moreover, those struggles continued long after King and the SCLC had left those communities. Civil rights activism also thrived in many places that King and the SCLC never even visited. The historiography of Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement, as that term itself implies, has consequently developed in two distinct strands. On the one hand, the literature comprises biographies of King in the ‘Montgomery to Memphis’ mould, while on the other hand it also comprises histories of the civil rights movement that have increasingly tended to frame that movement within the context of a much larger, ongoing struggle for black freedom and equality unfolding in the twentieth century at local, state, national, and even international levels. Partisan movement activists have played their own role in reinforcing the idea that there is a division between the ‘man and the movement’. Notably, there is the overused quote from Ella Baker (a former SCLC staff member who, disillusioned with the organisation and King, went on to become instrumental in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)) that ‘The movement made Martin rather than Martin making the movement.’ Contrast this with the claim by the Revd C.T. Vivian (a stalwart SCLC staff member, and like King a black Baptist minister) that ‘Man, Dr King was the movement.’
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.