This work has sought to uncover those central threads that gave shape, vitality, and unique significance to King's life, thought, and vision. More specifically, it has focused on King as essentially a product of black culture and the black experience in the South. Special attention has been devoted to his sense of regional identity and regional responsibility as a black southerner, and also to his nourishing foundation in the contexts of family, church, and the larger black community of Atlanta, Georgia. It has been argued that the black experience and the black Christian tradition were the most important influences in the shaping of King's life, thought, vision, and efforts to translate the ethical ideal of the beloved community into practical reality.
Much of the writing about King has been intensely biographical, with particular attention to the significance of his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University. Such works have merit, but their failure to attach primary importance to King's cultural context suggests both a racial bias and an antisouthern bias. This volume should serve as a corrective to this misguided approach. This work effectively shifts research from the usual configuration of the sources of King's life and thought to a greater appreciation of the decisive influence of his roots in the institutions, values,