When the name Martin Luther King is mentioned I guess most people think of the civil rights campaigns he led, his famous speeches and his assassination in Memphis.
However what was he really like? What and who influenced him theologically and politically? Why did he choose to use non-violent tactics instead of a violent approach that some other groups did at the time? Was he a good leader and what is the everlasting legacy that he has left America?
Godfrey Hodgson in his biography of Martin Luther King explores these questions and more as he traces the preacher’s life. The book is only 231 pages long but is an excellent introduction to Martin Luther King’s life. The author met King a number of times and so has firsthand experience of the actual person. Like all good biographies Hodgson presents an honest account of his subject’s life and does not ignore his shortcomings and mistakes.
This book reminds us of the full horrors of life in the South with the segregation and hatred that the white population had for their black counterparts being clearly illustrated. No-one matter how many films I have seen about this era e.g. Mississippi Burning and A Time to Kill, I still find it difficult to comprehend the hatred and prejudices that existed in the South.
There are also some interesting comments in the book relating to the Kennedy brothers which has portrayed them in a new light for me.
The author shows some of the disagreements in policy there were between the various civil rights groups as not all of them agreed with the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King. In fact there were various jealousies between the groups. However whatever one thinks of the tactics that King used, no-one can deny that he was a very brave man who courageously fought against the inequalities the black community faced.
In the last chapter Hodgson analyses whether King’s dream of equality has been achieved and again is honest in his findings.
This is the first book I have read on Martin Luther King and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about this brave man’s life. The depth is good but it’s not too deep as to leave the reader confused with unnecessary detail.