An impassioned life of the most inspirational figure of twentieth ' century America
Marshall Frady, the reporter who became the unofficial chronicler of the civil rights movement, here re-creates the life and turbulent times of its inspirational leader. Deftly interweaving the story of King's quest with a history of the African American struggle for equality, Frady offers fascinating insights into his subject ' s magnetic character, with its mixture of piety and ambition. He explores the complexities of King's relationships with other civil rights leaders, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover, who conducted a relentless vendetta against him. The result is a biography that conveys not just the facts of King ' s life but the power of his legacy.
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December 26, 2005
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Excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr by Marshall Frady
KING'S FATHER always presented a more imposing figure, in a way, than his eldest son ever would. A strapping, boomingly assertive man, commandingly erect and chesty, Martin Luther King, Sr.?later to be known as "Daddy King"?was the bluffly autocratic preacher at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, who liked to advertise how, at one congregational meeting, he had quelled an obstreperous member by threatening to collapse a chair over his head. Raised a sharecropper's son in south Georgia, called then Mike, he was burly enough at fourteen to grapple his drunken father away from beating his mother. After the ferocious fight that ensued, his mother, fearing that Mike or his father would sooner or later kill the other, made her son flee to Atlanta. Mike King arrived in the alien clamors of that city, as he later allowed, "smelling like a mule," but full of a barging industriousness: belatedly plowing his way through high school classes, he was preaching at two country churches by the time he was twenty.
He had also begun to pay court to the daughter of the minister then at Ebenezer, A. D. Williams, himself a slave preacher's son who had diligently made his way up to become one of the presiding worthies of Atlanta's black community. Alberta was the Williamses' only child, a plain, thick, shy girl, almost twenty, who played the organ at her father's services, and Mike King was the first suitor ever to seriously approach her. After a six-year courtship of the most filigreed formality, they were finally married on Thanksgiving Day of 1926 and lived in the Williamses' commodious Victorian house. In due time, Mike King would also assume Williams's pulpit at Ebenezer.
Sixteen months after the birth of a daughter, their first son was delivered, in their bedroom, on January 15, 1929, and named Michael after his father. Only when "Little Mike" was five would the elder King change both their names to Martin Luther, thereby depositing one of the first heavy loads of expectation, both his own and history's, on the slight shoulders of his eldest boy. Sixteen months after Little Mike's birth, another son was born, named A.D. after Alberta's father and also to become a preacher, but who was to prove for most of his life a flounderingly troubled spirit.