Annotated Bibliography of Martin Luther King

1 - Annotated Bibliography of Martin Luther King introduction. Peter J. Ling, Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Routledge, 2002

Being a traditional biographical narration, P. Ling’s book has several important advantages, which distinguishes it from other literature on Martin Luther King, Jr.  Author demystifies King without debunking him. For instance, Ling depicts a leader who had no equal but many critics. Throughout the book, King shows up as often indecisive, challenged by other activists, even belittled by many younger hotheads. Ling vividly captures the movement’s waning success after Birmingham and Selma in two powerful chapters on Vietnam and the Chicago campaign for fair housing. Ling perceptively interprets King’s radicalized critique of American society calling for economic redistribution and alienating many erstwhile supporters.  Simultaneously, Ling understands how King’s faith and calling shaped his public life and private lives. King’s biblical and theological study and his African American background convinced him that real progress toward racial equality required a reformation of America’s economic structure. Moreover, his prophetic understanding of the Christian ministry drove him to condemn the Vietnam war as unjust.

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2. Lewis V. Baldwin, with Rufus Burrow, Jr., Barbara A. Holmes, and Susan Holmes Winfield. The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Boundaries of Law, Politics, and Religion. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002

The book consists of six essays, each portraying and analysing particular aspect of Martin Luther King Jr.’s activity and concepts. For instance, in the essay named “On the Relation of the Christian to the State,” Lewis Baldwin presents King’s understanding that the church is to act as the conscience of the state. Baldwin argues that modern politically active Christian conservatives are not truly following King’s lead since their policies lead to exclusion, rather than to the creation of an inclusive Beloved Community. Simutaneously, in “American Political Traditions and the Christian Faith,” Baldwin describes King as both an idealist and a realist. King’s idealism is seen in the use he made of America’s founding documents, interpreting them not by original intent, but in terms of Christian hope.  Barbara A. Holmes and Susan Holmes Winfield indicate in “King, the Constitution, and the Courts” that King’s understanding of Christian love as a higher law enabled him to challenge unjust laws, creating a crisis through nonviolent confrontation that forced the courts to act. When the protests stopped, the courts did not move ahead.  Rufus Burrow, Jr. in “Personalism, the Objective Moral Order, and Moral Law,” argues that King’s expressed philosophy of Personalism, a concept according to which the universe is a system of interacting selves with a personal God at the center, indeed informed his thought and actions. Injustice could be recognized as unjust because it violated an objective moral order established by God in which persons are the highest value. King’s activism was embedded in his understanding that God works toward justice.

3. S. Jonathan Bass. Blessed Are the Peacemakers. Martin Luther King Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Louisiana State University Press, 2001

Educated majority surely knows the history of “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” addressed to the eight white clergymen, the affect it produced after the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and public attention and support it brought to the Civil Rights movement.  Bass’ “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” represents the complete history of King’s iconic prison epistle. According to Bass, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written specifically as a press release. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed it to the eight white clergymen, howerver he envisioned them as rhetorical foils in his and SCLC’s attempt to orchestrate a morality play on the national arena. In his Book, Bass reveals the role of the national media in constructing civil rights narratives in the 1960s, portraying the events as a mere fight of good guys versus bad guys.  Therefore, Bass narration makes the general audience question the myths of the Civil Rights movement that exist today. By the end of the book, Bas points out, “Inevitably it was the citizens of the Magic City, both black and white, and not Martin Luther King and the SCLC that brought about the real transformation of the city” (Bass, 291).

4. Voices of the Religious Left: A Contemporary Sourcebook. Ed. Rebecca T. Alpert. Philadelphia, Temple University Press. 2000

Throughout the history of religion there have been left-oriented religious views, and this source gives the audience religious left readings on a variety of topics. Practically, often dealing with social issues such as social justice, the religious left reveal ideas about how religion and reform can and should be related. Chapter 7 of the book is written by Vincent Harding and entitled “Martin Luther King and the Future of America.” Harding points out the courageous nature of King, who went to dangerous places to advance the cause of equality. It ended up costing him his life. Harding believes that agencies of the government were involved in the King assassination, although he offers no data to prove this claim. Some African Americans did not support him, due to his nonviolent approach. Yet, King achieved a great deal with the sit-ins and with his constant preaching about social injustice in America. Although this is not mentioned in the chapter, it is important to note that King’s words advocated equality of opportunity, not affirmative action in the sense of quotas, which society experience now.

5. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr, Ed. Clayborne Carson, Warner Books, 1999

The book provides a chronological account of Martin Luther King’s life and activity, told entirely in King’s own words. However, in the beginning of the work Carson admits that the book is “largely a religious and political autobiography rather than the explanation of a private life” (Carson, 16). Thus, the audience unfamiliar with the persons and events that form the context of King’s life might finds the Autobiography confusing. Names of people are often mentioned without any explanation of who they are or why they are significant. Aside from the few specific dates the editor uses to introduce each chapter, the narration pays little attention to chronology. Despite all the limitations of the book, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks eloquently and powerfully through the pages and introduces readers to his mind and heart. Expectedly, the major point of the Autobiography is how clearly King was a man of deep, lively religious faith. His mind, his affections, his language were shaped and animated by the biblical story of salvation.

6. Rice, Suzanne. “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Ethic of Love”: Virtues Common and Rare.” Philosophy of Education Yearbook, 2004 pp. 362-9

In her essay, author attempts to offer a systematic account of King’s ethics thathas been scattered among the many works he authored. In Rice’s view, even though King’s ethic promotes values (such as economic equality) that society regards as instrumental, it is nevertheless best characterized as an ethic of virtue. According to Rice, love constitutes a dominant theme in many of King’s writings, since his most engaging discussions of this virtue are found in the sermons. In King’s works, love is not conceptualized in its more familiar romantic or sentimental manifestations; instead, as Rice points out, “King discusses a variety of love that is robust and tenacious” (Rice, 363).  Rice continues to discuss King’s second virtue, which is courage. King most succinct definition of courage is the “power of the mind to overcome fear.” Hope represents the third virtue for Martin Luther King, Jr., since in his view a lack of hope would almost certainly doom African Americans to continuing oppression.

7. Richards, David A. J. “Ethical religion and the struggle for human rights: the case of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Fordham Law Review, 72 (5), April 2004, pp. 2105-52

David Richards discusses the contributions made by Martin Luther King, Jr. from the point of political contractualism and constitutional law. Particularly, author attempts to explain the impact on American constitutional law of various struggles for human rights, including not only the struggles of religious minorities, but movements for racial justice.  Moreover, Richards explores a conception of ethical religion and its role in the civil rights movement brilliantly led by Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Richards, King must be understood not only as a person in himself, but as the leader of a nonviolent, mass movement of protest which he inspired. Author systematically refers to the historiography by Taylor Branch “Parting the Waters,” where King is studied in the analogy of Jesus of Nazareth in a sense that audience knows the latter entirely through the words of the persons in the movement he inspired. Simutaneously, Richards argues that the close study of King’s life and work, including the social movement he led, reveals a highly personal and original interpretation of religion in terms of arguments of public reason accessible to all.

8. Mattson, Kevin. “Martin Luther King, Jr.”  Social Policy, 30 (2), Winter 1999, pp. 29-32

Mattson gives a general account of Martin Luther King, Jr. as an organizer of political movement. In the beginning of the essay, author compares King with Malcolm X and explains for why people usually prefer strategy and approach of the former, – “they usually talk about Malcolm’s militancy” (Mattson, 29). In the middle of the article, Mattson characterizes Martin Luther King, Jr. as an intellectual with a common touch, who “was deeply troubled by injustice and the propensity of humans to commit acts of evil” (Mattson, 30). This particular ability of King to avoid “acts of evil” makes him to be invaluable organizer of political movement.

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